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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 10 December, 2018

Play-off defeat always the hardest to swallow but Paul Dunne takes huge step forward

The Greystones golfer moves up to 20th in the Race to Dubai standings after earning a cheque for €277,770 in Morocco.

IT WAS HARD, in that moment, as Paul Dunne’s putt caught the lip but didn’t drop, to think of any positive to come from such play-off heartbreak — but some defeats serve only as instalments to victory.

The Open Championship 2016 - Day Two - Royal Troon Golf Club Source: Peter Byrne

Dunne had gone into the final round of the Trophee Hassan II trophy with a two shot lead, and looked for large parts of Sunday’s final round that he would come of age with a maiden European Tour victory.

Indeed, the Wicklow golfer showed great maturity throughout the week in Morocco but fell agonisingly short of a landmark win as Edoardo Molinari seized the chance to clinch his first title since 2010.

While Dunne admitted afterwards that he felt shots slipped away throughout his final round, and certainly he didn’t play as well as the previous three days, Molinari’s eagle at 18, to put himself in contention, was a moment of magic from the Italian.

Dunne will doubtlessly look back on dropped shots on 11 and 15, his wayward tee-shot during the play-off and then the missed putt on 18 with frustration but this was a huge step in the right direction for the 24-year-old.

After just about retaining his Tour card after a mixed debut season in 2016, the Greystones native has found some form having spent the winter working hard on his game.

Second place at the Trophee Hassan II trophy earns him a pay cheque for €277,770 — a figure more than his accumulated earnings from all of last season (€260,793) — and while money is not the primary concern, it all but guarantees him playing rights for 2018.

With €403,975 in prize money so far in 2017, Dunne now lies in 20th position in the Race to Dubai standings. Last year, he finished in 106th.

“I’m happy with my form and looking forward to next week,” he said yesterday.

“I’m just a bit disappointed not to come out with the result we wanted but it’s a step in the right direction.

“I felt like there were just so many shots that slipped away from me. It’s just one of those days.”

A cursory glance at Dunne’s recent results — Hero Indian Open (T98), Tshwane Open (T6), Joburg Open (T23) — shows a marked improvement on last year when he lacked consistency during a maiden season as a professional.

Yesterday’s second-placed finish is, needless to say, a career-best and while the eventual outcome was hugely disappointing, Dunne now heads to China for Shenzhen International infused with the confidence that comes from being in contention on a Sunday.

A play-off defeat is always the hardest to swallow, but it will serve as an invaluable learning curve for Dunne as he looks to build on last week and scale new heights in the second half of the season.

Right now it will be of little consolation, but you feel Dunne will look back on this week as a significant juncture in his career for all the right reasons.

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Paul Dunne misses out on first European Tour title after losing play-off

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Ryan Bailey

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