task in hand

'If I can get on the Ryder Cup team, great. If not, I'll watch it like everybody else'

Paul Dunne is focused on making improvements across his game, rather than thinking too much about selection for this year’s Ryder Cup.

A MAIDEN PROFESSIONAL victory at last year’s British Masters instantly catapulted Paul Dunne into the Ryder Cup conversation, but with time running out and points to make up, the 25-year-old isn’t giving much thought to the possibility of selection.

Paul Dunne Dunne speaking ahead of the Irish Open yesterday. Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

Dunne enters this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 14th in the European points list ahead of September’s biennial match in Paris and knows if he is to harbour any hope of automatic selection that he’ll need to register at least two wins between now and then.

A second European Tour win at Ballyliffin this weekend would give his hopes a major shot in the arm, while Dunne — who has recorded top-10 finishes in Spain and China recently — could also force his way into Thomas Bjorn’s thinking for the four wildcard picks.

But when asked about making his debut in the Ryder Cup this year, the Wicklow native was keen to downplay his chances while insisting he has been focused on making incremental improvements across his game on a week-to-week basis, rather than think about something long-term.

“Ever since I won, I got the Ryder Cup questions,” he said yesterday.

“To be honest, it doesn’t impact me at all. I haven’t thought about the Ryder Cup really once. It hasn’t been a goal. It hasn’t been something I’ve said that I want to make this team, only for the fact that I think it’s such a difficult team to make because if I was to make it would be through that European Points list and there’s only four spots available.

“You’d have, like even from now, I still think I’d have to win twice, even if I won this week, I still don’t think I’d be on the team.

“To me, it was one of those things that if it happened, then it would be great, or if I got very close to it come the time, then I would have thought about it more. Yeah, I’ve been asked about it a lot but I’m more concentrated on trying to improve different areas of my game.

“You know, try to hit more fairways and try to continue the work I’ve been doing on my putter and just look on taking advantage of chances when I have them. That’s been really my areas that I’ve been focusing on, and I just want to try and win another tournament, and if I can and the Ryder Cup happens, great. If not, I’ll watch it like everybody else.”

The Irish Open’s status as a Rolex Series event — the prize fund is just under €6 million — will booster Dunne’s chances if he can produce a big performance this week, with the former Blackrock College student getting his first round underway alongside Alexander Levy and Matt Wallace at 1.10pm on Thursday.

When asked to sum up his season so far, Dunne admitted the first few months had been a struggle as he searched for form and consistency, but the turning point, he feels, was a solid performance and finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Dunne finished in a tie for 55th among a strong field that week and while it may not appear to have been a season-turning result, he felt his game has been in good shape since, as evidenced by brushes with glory at the Open de España and Volvo China Open and victory at the GolfSixes event with Gavin Moynihan.

PGA: Houston Open - Third Round Dunne is ranked 72nd in the world. SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

“As a season, I think I got off to a bit of a rough start,” he admitted. “I was struggling with a few different things and I was working hard on certain aspects of my swing that felt like I was getting nowhere with them, even though I felt like I was doing the right things, and then kind of from nowhere, it clicked kind of really quickly and then when it I did went on a nice run. I felt like I was playing well every week.

“It clicked a little in Mexico. I didn’t play great in Mexico, but I started to feel some shots on the course, and the next tournament I played was the Dominican Republic and from that week on, I felt much more comfortable with everything. I felt like I was trying to play tournaments to do well, as opposed to trying to sneak through cut lines.

“Yeah, ever since kind of end of March, I feel like it’s been pretty good, but I struggled those first three months.”

How he would dearly love to mount a challenge on the Glashedy Links this week on what will be his third Irish Open appearance, having recorded finishes of 60 and T54 in the last two years.

That said, Dunne isn’t putting any more pressure on himself in front of home fans and is hoping to go out and enjoy the occasion ahead of a crucial few weeks in the golfing calendar, culminating with the Open — a tournament he has fond memories of — at Carnoustie.

“I’ve never really felt a huge expectation coming home to an Irish Open,” he added.

“The last two I played, I haven’t really — I haven’t got like up there in contention in either of them, either. I just made the cut and finished, I don’t remember, 40th or 50th or something. But like I love it, I love having friends and family around. You can feel the support of people, and I have home comforts, as well, a lot of things, especially the breakfast.

“So yeah, I enjoy it. Hopefully I can feel that expectation on the weekend but I’ve got to play two good rounds first.”

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