Quiet start for Dunne as season kicks off in Hong Kong

Bernie McGuire

They say there’s no rest for the wicked, well what does that make a professional golfer? 2017 ended with a Jon Rahm bang last week in Dubai, 2018 got underway today in the fast-paced metropolis of Hong Kong, and unsurprisingly, Paul Dunne looked a little jaded in his efforts. 

The Greystones man fired an opening one over par 71 to claim a share of 47th spot after day one of the UBS Hong Kong Open, being appropriately contested at Hong Kong Golf Club.

In truth, it wasn’t all that bad a score as gusts caused havoc for the field at times, yet Dunne has been on such a high of late that it would be easy to forgive him a slow start.

Buoyed by taking his first steps towards Ryder Cup selection this morning, Dunne was among 10 ‘available’ players to qualify automatically for Thomas Bjorn’s team that will tackle an Asian Team at the EurAsia Cup, commencing on January 12th at the Glenmarie Country Club course in Kuala Lumpur.

And he bolted out of the gates initially, three birdies in his first four, it was business as usual for Paul, determined more than ever to stake his claim for a Ryder Cup berth.

However, five bogeys followed, and though he struggled on the greens last week at the DP World Championship in Dubai, it’s hard to believe that a certain tiredness hasn’t crept in after such an explosive breakthrough season.

There was no such fears for Matt Fitzpatrick who leads the European charge on day one of the championship after a testing day in swirling, gusting winds at HK Golf Club.

The 23 year old put on typically strong display of ball-striking as he carded an opening four under par 66 to lie just one shot off the lead set by India’s SSP Chawrasia.

“It’s a good start to the week”, confirmed a pleased Fitzpatrick. “It’s not an easy course around here and I hit the ball great from tee to green. I think I had seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it’s so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, it was a good day.”

Playing alongside Race to Dubai winner, Tommy Fleetwood, Fitzpatrick paid homage to the crowds that kept his spirits up all day.

“We had a bit of a crowd with us which was great. People are going to be following Tommy seeing as he won The Race to Dubai last week. I always enjoy playing with him – I played with Tommy in my first start as a pro so we have known each other for quite some time and it’s always good to play with him.”

Chawrasia and Fitzpatrick’s first round efforts were played in the toughest conditions of the day before the Englishman was joined by Chawrasia’s countryman Shubhankar Sharma on four under.

Belgium’s Thomas Detry and Welshman Jamie Donaldson are in a seven-man tie for fourth place on three under, while the two main protagonists in last week’s thrilling finish the to the 2017 Race to Dubai – Europe’s new Number One Tommy Fleetwood and Olympic Champion Justin Rose – continued their fine form by posting matching 68s to move to two under.

Fleetwood finished third on his debut here last season, while Rose won the tournament in 2015.

Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, making his debut in the UBS Hong Kong Open, bogeyed his final hole of the day but was generally satisfied with a level par 70 in his first competitive round at the notoriously difficult Hong Kong Golf Club.

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