Paul Dunne has to like his chances of avoiding any Mexican border obstacle this week to be assured of competing next month in Texas.
Dunne, surprisingly, is the lone Irishman contesting today’s starting $10m WGC – Mexico Championship in Mexico City and it’s his first visit to Mexico, with top-Irish ranked Rory McIlroy electing to avoid any stomach bugs that struck down so many a year ago by staying in Florida while Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell failed to qualify for the elite 65-player with no halfway cut.
Dunne has contested just one WGC in his career and that was a T38th place finish in last October’s WGC – HSBC Champions event in China and this week also will just be Dunne’s fifth regular event of the New Year having last played in California where he missed the cut in the AT & T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Dunne will tee-up at 7.03pm Irish time Thursday ranked World No. 86 with the top Mexican prize opening up so many career doors including all four Majors and the most sought after prize of all, a PGA Tour card.
And while Dunne will be focussed on success, a top-15 could see him break into the world’s top-64 to be assured of teeing-up in the next WGC event, that being the March 21st starting WGC – Dell Match-Play Championship in Austin, Texas.
The quietly-spoken Greystones golfer will however, face plenty of big noise from the likes of World No. 1 and defending champion, Dustin Johnson plus England’s Justin Rose. Rose won the last WGC event, the HSBC Champions, and a week later jetted off with the Turkish Airlines Open title.
“Winning the WGC – HSBC Champions was a kickstart to the season,” said Rose.
“Whenever you win before the new year rolls around, you kind of feel like you’ve put some points on the board and some credit in the bank.”
“From my point of view now, this is the beginning of a long run of golf after four weeks off, so sometimes that positions you, you come out slightly unsure of exactly where you’re going to be after four weeks, but I’m coming in fresh.”
“The reason for taking a few weeks off was to essentially just sort of rebalance the system a little bit. I travelled so much at the end of last year and the beginning of this year that I kind of knew there might be a cost to that at some point, so I just pre-emptively took a few weeks off. I also really wanted to work on my game.”
“There were a few things, obviously I’ve been playing really well, but there were a few things I wanted to tune up and here we are in Mexico and ready to go.”