Dunne's Spanish mission: "You've got to put your neck on the line"

Dunne's Spanish mission: "You've got to put your neck on the line"
 Paul Dunne of Ireland on the 17th tee during the third round of the Open de Espana at Centro Nacional de Golf on 14 April 2018. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Paul Dunne of Ireland on the 17th tee during the third round of the Open de Espana at Centro Nacional de Golf on 14 April 2018. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Paul Dunne knows he must put his neck on the line and commit to his shots if he’s to turn a one-shot lead into victory in the Open de España in Madrid.

The Greystones star shot a four-under 68 to remain at the top of the leaderboard on 17-under par. But his three-shot lead was reduced to just one as the chasing pack turned up the heat.

Spain’s Nacho Elvira (66) trails Dunne by one shot while world number four Jon Rahm (66) is lurking just two behind in a share of third with Swede Henric Sturehed (66).

It’s the third time Dunne has had the 54-hole lead on the European Tour but while he failed to win The Open at St Andrews in 2015 as an amateur and lost out in a playoff for last year’s Trophée Hassan II, he knows what he has to do in the final round at the Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid. 

“I’m happy with how my game feels," a tired Dunne said after a round that saw him find water at the 17th for his only bogey of the day before leaving an eagle putt hanging on the lip after two great shots to the par-five 18th. 

"I am not really happy with the shots I hit. I think it was more decision making and decisiveness rather than technical issues or anything like that. They're easy fixes, so I am confident about tomorrow. 

"I'm happy where everything is. I mean there's lots of shots I'd like to have back out there but I can't. So I'm just going to sleep on the lead tonight and then have a good day tomorrow.

"Decision making is a pretty easy thing to fix. Once you make a conscious decision to do it, you just have to stick to it. 

"When you're in between two shots you just have to pick one and go for it and whatever happens, the result happens, but you've got to put your neck on the line and try and pull off great shots as opposed to trying to hit away from trouble.

"That's what I'm going to do. Hopefully, it gives me a chance to win, and we'll see where it takes us."

Putting your neck on the line was one of 1996 Spanish Open winner Pádraig Harrington's keys to success. 

And Dunne knows he must be brave on Sunday if he's to clinch Irish golf's sixth Spanish Open win after Eddie Polland ('76, '80), Eamonn Darcy ('83) and Peter Lawrie ('08).

The 25-year-old claimed his maiden title at last season's British Masters supported by Sky Sports, closing with a 61 to win by three shots from Rory McIlroy.

Elvira's best finish on the European Tour was a playoff loss at the 2016 Trophée Hassan II, which Dunne also lost in a playoff last year.

Although Elvira does have four Challenge Tour wins, Dunne will also be wary of the challenge of Rahm and six-time European Tour winner Brett Rumford, who is only three behind.

After a 66 he described as the best round of the week so far, reigning Irish Open champion Rahm knows he may have to go far lower to get past Dunne.

“I wish I could make a couple more putts," he said. "I know it’s really hard for everybody, I just hope tomorrow is the day when I make a few, even though I made one today which was about ten feet on number six, that was a little bit of a bonus.

“Being able to win this event would probably be the most special out of all because I have been a national champion at amateur level so many different ways, and to be able to clinch it as a professional, to be the Spanish Open champion and join this elite group of Spanish players who won it, it would be amazing. 

"You have names like Sergio and Seve, and many others. I just found out my coach’s grandfather also won it in 1945, so it has a long legacy of great players.

“You never know down the stretch once the nerves kick in and you need to make the putts, and I know those two guys in the last group are making putts, but if they don’t make them tomorrow it is a very different dynamic. I just need to make sure that I start on a good note and keep it going."

Elvira confessed that it's been an emotional week with so many home fans out to support their players.

"I don’t know if I can even describe what I’m feeling," he said. "It’s been an incredible week. I’ve never seen this many people together on a golf course, at least on this golf course. 

"It’s been kind of difficult to hold it together today because it was kind of emotional, everybody was pushing around – it’s been an amazing day."

That emotional burden may help Dunne and hinder the Spaniards on Sunday. But without putting his neck on the line, he knows that he stands little chance of success.

Open de España, Centro Nacional de Golf (Par 72)

Detailed scores | Tee-times

199 P Dunne (Irl) 66 65 68, 

200 N Elvira (Esp) 68 66 66, 

201 J Rahm (Esp) 67 68 66, H Sturehed (Swe) 67 68 66, 

202 B Rumford (Aus) 68 66 68, 

203 A Sullivan (Eng) 75 63 65, 

204 M Warren (Sco) 66 69 69, A Rai (Eng) 67 71 66, J Campillo (Esp) 70 67 67, 

205 B Neil (Sco) 71 66 68, M Kieffer (Ger) 69 67 69, J Kruyswijk (RSA) 69 70 66, A Johnston (Eng) 68 68 69, 

206 R Rock (Eng) 70 65 71, P Oriol (Esp) 68 71 67, C Shinkwin (Eng) 67 67 72, 

207 J Thomson (Eng) 67 71 69, A Wu (Chn) 70 70 67, H Tanihara (Jpn) 70 70 67, S Del Val (Esp) 74 65 68, C Ford (Eng) 70 69 68, A Björk (Swe) 67 72 68, J Winther (Den) 69 67 71, P Angles (Esp) 72 66 69, M Schwab (Aut) 67 71 69, S Han (USA) 70 69 68, 

208 G Bourdy (Fra) 70 67 71, T Olesen (Den) 68 68 72, R Paratore (Ita) 70 70 68, E Van Rooyen (RSA) 67 71 70, F Aguilar (Chi) 72 66 70, M Fraser (Aus) 71 66 71, J Norris (Aus) 67 71 70, V Pastor (am) (Esp) 67 72 69, 

209 A Otaegui (Esp) 69 70 70, D Burmester (RSA) 73 65 71, G Coetzee (RSA) 72 66 71, B Dredge (Wal) 71 68 70, P Larrazábal (Esp) 71 65 73, N Colsaerts (Bel) 71 67 71, Y Miyazato (Jpn) 69 68 72, A Connelly (Can) 72 66 71, A Cañizares (Esp) 72 67 70, J Choi (Kor) 70 69 70, T Pulkkanen (Fin) 75 65 69, A Wall (Eng) 70 70 69, N Bertasio (Ita) 69 70 70, 

210 B Stone (RSA) 71 67 72, R Cho (Kor) 73 64 73, R Sterne (RSA) 68 70 72, D Howell (Eng) 72 66 72, A Pavan (Ita) 71 67 72, M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 69 68 73, M Manassero (Ita) 69 71 70, G Green (Mas) 71 68 71, M Baldwin (Eng) 70 69 71, D Fichardt (RSA) 69 71 70, S Kim (USA) 69 68 73, J Guerrier (Fra) 67 69 74, 

211 S Gros (Fra) 73 67 71, R Gouveia (Por) 69 70 72, S Gallacher (Sco) 70 70 71, M Schneider (Ger) 76 63 72, C Bezuidenhout (RSA) 69 71 71, R Ramsay (Sco) 73 66 72, 

212 T Murray (Eng) 72 67 73, T Fisher Jnr (RSA) 68 72 72, 

213 G Storm (Eng) 70 70 73, S Garcia Rodriguez (Esp) 69 71 73, 

214 J Scrivener (Aus) 70 69 75, J Dantorp (Swe) 73 67 74, 

215 D Lipsky (USA) 69 71 75, 

216 P Waring (Eng) 68 72 76, T Jaidee (Tha) 72 67 77.