Dunne But Not Nearly Dusted Yet
Paul Dunne will set out tomorrow seeking to write his name into the record books.
It is now some 85 years since an amateur has won The Open Championship but the 22 year-old Irishman has a great chance to emulate the late, great Bobby Jones after carding a 66 to share the lead with Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen after three rounds of this year’s Championship at St Andrews.
Dunne has already done enough to etch his name into history but to take that one tantalising step further he will have to fend off a challenge from many of the leading professionals in the game.
Day and Oosthuizen are by no means the only formidable faces he will have overcome if he is to lift the Claret Jug tomorrow night. Jordon Spieth is still on course to become just the second player to claim the first three legs of the modern Grand Slam after carding his own 66 to sit in fourth place on 205 and just a single shot out of the lead.
Dunne’s compatriot, Padraig Harrington, gets a chance to claim a hat-trick of Open titles after posting a 65 to claim fifth place on ten-under-par 206 while Marc Leishman, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Retief Goosen, Robert Streb, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Jordan Niebrugge and Danny Willett make up what is an exceptional supporting cast in a tie for sixth.
Dunne cannot even be assured of the winning the Silver Medal awarded to the leading amateur because just three shots behind him lurks the ominous figure of American Niebrugge, who carded a 67 to share sixth place on nine-under. Double European Amateur champion, Ashley Chesters, from Hawkstone Park in Shropshire, isn’t altogether out of it either. He carded a 67 on a day of outrageous scoring to sit just six shots back in the race for the amateur prize.
It seems there is a captivating storyline in every nook and cranny here in the Auld Grey Toon.
Dunne started the day one shot behind halfway leader, Dustin Johnson, but as Johnson faltered to a 75, it was the amateur who came into his own. He birdied the 1ST, 4TH, 7TH and 9TH to reach the turn in 32 for the second time this week and then sailed home in 34 to add a 66 to his two opening rounds of 69.
“It feels great,” he said. “It was great to play with Louis Oosthuizen today. He’s obviously a great role model for me, a great player, someone I look up to. He was a really nice playing partner so I really enjoyed it. It was such a fun day.
“There were a few shots I was nervous on. I was nervous on the first tee but once I got underway I wasn’t too bad.
“It’s surreal that I’m leading The Open, but I can easily believe that I shot the three scores that I shot. If I was playing an amateur event here, I wouldn’t be too surprised. It’s just lucky that it happens to be in the biggest event in the world. Hopefully, I can do it again tomorrow but, whether I do it or not, I’ll survive either way.”
Harrington was one of the first competitors to quantify what his young compatriot had achieved.
“It is phenomenal,” said the 2007 and 2008 champion. “His first round score was tremendous, then to back it up with another 69 was very gutsy. Now, to go out and lead the tournament, you can’t take that away from him ever.
“He’s led The Open Championship a long way into the event as an amateur. That’s as rare as it comes. Hopefully, he continues to play great. Tomorrow, it will be all about me on the golf course. But, if I don’t win, I hope he does. It’s certainly not beyond belief to see him continue and win it from here, either.”
Oosthuizen has a great chance to emulate Tiger Woods and win consecutive Open Championships at the home of golf. He has carded rounds of 67, 70 and 67 and so is ideally placed to emulate his achievement in 2010. “It’s a good place to be,” he admitted. “I think the two of us pulled each other along.
“He played unbelievable. His second shot on 17 was one of the best I’ve seen. Tomorrow is going to be a tough day. There are so many players who can still win this. I think it’s going to be one of the tightest Opens ever.”
“It’s going to be a great day,” said Day, who added a 67 to his opening rounds of 66 and 71 and now has a great chance to win his first Major title. “I always wanted to be the first Aussie to win the Masters but Scottie (Adam Scott) beat me to it. Since we haven’t had an Aussie win the Claret Jug since Mr Norman, it would be nice to put my name on it.
“We’re just trying to chase that bit of immortality,” he added. “That’s probably the best way to put it.
“It’s just great to have a chance to make a piece of history and get the glory that goes along with it.”