Paul Dunne is already in front heading to his first U. S. Major after taking the money off Shane Lowry in a pre-U.S. Open practice range.
Dunne and Lowry had just walked from the course and Dunne was heading up the staircase of a temporary footbridge and bound for the Erin Hills locker room when Lowry threw him a screwed-up note of sorts.
When Dunne finally got it unfolded it was two $US20 bills his winnings after a “skins” match.
Dunne is among a dozen European first-timers teeing-up and that is seven more than the number of trees on the Erin Hills course.
The 24-year old is contesting his very first U.S. Major and just the fourth of his career after contesting the last three Open Championships.
But then having honed his game watching the likes of Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke win Majors also can only benefit the quietly-spoken Dunne.
“Watching the other Irish guys win majors is a big help seeing Clarke win a major or Rory or Harrington”, he said. “I didn’t know them that well growing up, and I didn’t know their games but I just know them as a fan watching on TV.”
“They became role models as well. It is not as close to the bone. It was cool also to see Shane doing so well, and the US Open suits him because he drives it so well. Hopefully, I can do well”
And while the diminutive Dunne could easily get lost in the near neck-high rough, he showed at St. Andrews two years ago he can hold his own on golf’s biggest stage.
“To do really well this week you have to hit it straight, not really straight but relatively straight,” he said.
“Average drives don’t get punished but it will be bad drives that miss the fairway that get really punished, so you are looking at a minimum one shot penalty, and most likely two. ”
“If you get the ball in play, it depends on where they put the pins. There are a lot of pins that could have feed in slopes in and you could get really aggressive. But then also there are pins they can put on ridges, and you have to be conservative. Someone who drives it well, putts well. ”
“Then there is the rough that is so bad that it’s not like if you have an eight iron in you are going to get there. All you can do is just hack it out, if you can hack it out”.
And if Dunne is in contention it will all come down to his mentality and something the young Irishman has been handling well of late.
“This week is just about mindset,” he said. “It’s about learning yourself. Everyone ticks differently and it’s about learning what makes you tick. And getting yourself in the right place to want to move forward rather than stay where you are”.