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Dunne's year off to a flyer as he sits four shots off Stenson in Abu Dhabi

The Irishman opened with a round of 68.

Dunne has worked hard on his game over the winter.
Dunne has worked hard on his game over the winter.
Image: Peter Byrne

PAUL DUNNE COULD hardly have asked for a better start to the year as he showed no signs of rustiness to card five birdies during the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The 24-year-old signed for a four-under par round of 68 to lie four shots off the lead, set by defending champion Henrik Stenson.

The Open champion set a stunning early pace as he finished on eight-under par after a flawless round of golf.

Dunne is in a tie for ninth alongside a host of players including Branden Grace, Lee Westwood and European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.

The Wicklow native endured a mixed first season on Tour last year and after just doing enough to retain his card, he will be hoping to kick-on in 2017.

Having worked hard over the winter, Dunne’s game looked in good shape as he turned in one-under par before four consecutive birdies ignited his round.

The only blemish, coming on the 17th, was a disappointing way to close the day but the former Blackrock College student is well-positioned in a star-studded field.

Darren Clarke, meanwhile, had a difficult day as he struggled to a three-over par round of 75 to lie in 117th place.

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Ryan Bailey

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