Friday 21 September 2018

Irish star top of the world

Amateur sitting pretty at head of leaderboard

Irish amateur Paul Dunne is in contention to become the first amateur to win the British Open for 85 years after a sensational third-round display sent him rocketing into a tie for the lead on Sunday.

The 22-year-old joined 2010 St Andrews winner Louis Oosthuizen and experienced Australian Jason Day on 12 under par after firing a remarkably composed third-round, six under par 66, his third sub-70 round of the week.

"It's surreal I'm leading the Open but I can easily believe I shot the three scores I shot," Greystones native Dunne told reporters after heading the best of the world's pros into today's final round.

"If we were playing an amateur event here I wouldn't be too surprised by the scores I shot. 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 or not, you know, I'll survive either way."

Dunne, who won a place at golf's oldest major through final qualifying, explained how he went about plotting his way towards potential glory.

"I kind of picked conservative enough targets that gave me room either side and then attacked with my irons and tried to give myself chances," said the Irishman who is looking to become the first amateur winner of the Open since Bobby Jones in 1930 and only the fourth in its 155-year history

"I went out there thinking that if I could play sensible and keep the bogeys off my card you're going to have so many opportunities for birdie you're bound to make some. I was really pleased to keep the bogeys off the card."

Dunne thanked the galleries for their backing, and playing partner Oosthuizen.

"I felt like I had so much support from the crowd, I kind of felt like I was at home," he said. "Every shot I hit was getting cheered from start to finish so big thanks to the crowd.

"They kept me lifted the whole way through. It was great to play with Louis today, he's obviously a great role model for me, great player, someone I look up to."

The 32-year-old Oosthuizen was equally praiseworthy of Dunne's display.

"He played unbelievable, that second shot on 17 was one of the best I've seen," said the South African after the youngster drilled a majestic 219-yard four iron to within 20 feet of the cup at the notorious 'Road Hole' on the way to a par four.

"He made me so nervous on my second shot because I was going a completely different route, low, running, and I tugged it a little bit to the left. It was an amazing shot."

Dunne cannot win any prize money so the winner's cheque for £1.15m is out of reach, but the amateur is able to receive golf kit and equipment from sponsors.

Asked if he could lift the Claret Jug in the second Monday finish in championship history, t Dunne said: "I don't see why not. I'm well capable of shooting the scores that I need to win if everyone else doesn't play their best.

"Whether it happens or not, I can't really control. I can just go out and try to play my game and see where it leaves me at the end of the day. Hopefully I play great again and post a good number.

Meanwhile, Dustin Johnson's jinx at majors struck again as he went from favourite to outsider with a scrappy three-over-par 75.

Leading at the halfway stage on 10 under, the big-hitting American misfired badly to tumble down the leaderboard.

On a day when birdies were there for the taking, and were taken by everyone else on an Old Course tamed by tranquil weather conditions, Johnson managed only one - at the 15th - and leaked four dropped shots to fall five strokes behind.

"I didn't feel like I played that bad," Johnson, who led last month's US Open on the 72nd hole before a three-putt handed the title to Jordan Spieth, said.

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