Dunne still chasing full fitness ahead of thorough Galgorm test

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Paul Dunne and caddie Paul McBride pictured at Galgorm (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Paul Dunne believes this week’s Irish Open competitors are in for a tough week after completing his pre-tournament notes at Galgorm Castle.

The Greystones golfer, who lost his full playing privileges to the European Tour last season, is still trying to overcome a hand injury that kept him out of action from late last year and although he’d love for his form to return this week on home soil, he’s not expecting an easy ride at the Ballymena layout.

“The course is all about your tee shots, it’s pretty narrow off the tee and it doesn’t give you much respite,” Dunne said.

“It’s all about keeping it – you would say between the tree line – but there’s decent room between the tree line, but the fairways are fairly narrow and the rough between the fairway and the trees is extremely thick. Especially when it’s wet, you can’t get much out of it at all.”

“There are definitely low scores out there, but a double or triple could come up and bite you pretty quickly, too. If people can keep doubles off the cards there are plenty of chances.

“I don’t think the scores will be particularly low, I think they will be higher than the tournaments we have played in the last few weeks. I would be surprised if there were many people… well people can always get to 20 under, but I would be surprised. Let’s wait and see, depending on the weather.”

The 2017 British Masters Champion has made just two of six cuts since making his return to competition post-lockdown with a best of tied-38th result at the Lee Westwood hosted Betfred British Masters.

A missed cut most recently at the Portugal Open last week saw Dunne return an encouraging round of 71 on day two and although it’s been a long road back to the heights of his win down the stretch against Rory McIlroy some three years ago at Close House, the 27-year old is just focussed on getting fit before he can scale those heights once more.

My hand isn’t 100% but it’s not far off,” Dunne revealed. “It’s perfectly fine to play, I probably just can’t play a lot of weeks in a row. There’s some maintenance still going on. Probably a few months before it’s fully 100% but it’s definitely not an issue in terms of playing. 

(My goals) are just to get back fit and get my game back in a shape where I feel like I can move forward. I don’t have any short term goals because I don’t know what the future holds.

“A lot of lockdown for me was thinking I was getting better and then going backwards, forwards, backwards. It was a little bit frustrating, so I’m just ready to go out and play and be able to practice as free as I can.”

Dunne has a familiar face on the bag this week with Tour professional and good friend from The Island, Paul McBride taking on caddie duties.

The pair get their tournament underway alongside Cormac Sharvin and Marc Warren at 12.40pm.

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