Amateur Dunne chasing history at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2015, 8:40 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – With a bulky Titleist bag slung over his right shoulder, Alan Murray climbed down the elevated walkway behind the R&A clubhouse and tried to make sense of what had just happened.

There was a lot to absorb.

The head men’s coach at Alabama-Birmingham glanced inside the media tent and noticed that the best player he’s ever coached was on one of the seven projection screens, answering questions from the Open’s TV partners.  

“Look at that,” Murray said, pointing at the screen. “Isn’t it incredible?”

Unbelievable, really.

On the eve of a final round overflowing with storylines, it is Paul Dunne, a 22-year-old Irish amateur, who can author one of the most improbable tales in the game’s long history.

Dunne, who is actually eight months older than world No. 2 Jordan Spieth, is tied for the lead here at the 144th Open Championship.

Spieth’s bid to match Ben Hogan as the only players to win the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in the same season will garner almost all of the attention Monday, and deservedly so. But Dunne’s position through three rounds here shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed: He’s the first amateur since Jim Simons in 1971, and just the fourth player overall in the modern Grand Slam era, to hold at least a share of the lead at a major.  

“His first-round score [69] was a tremendous achievement, then to back it up and shoot another 69 in the second round was really gutsy, and now to go out there and be leading the tournament, you can’t take that away from him ever,” said Padraig Harrington, the godfather of modern Irish golf. “That is as rare as it comes.”

Full-field scores: 144th Open Championship

And Dunne isn’t even the only amateur in the field with a chance to win Monday: Jordan Niebrugge, a senior at Oklahoma State, is in a tie for sixth, only three shots back.  

“I’m not extremely surprised,” Spieth said. “I think in years to come, you’re going to see more and more of it.”

One of the biggest benefactors of Dustin Johnson’s third-round collapse, Dunne began the day four shots behind. Two hours later, he had grabbed the lead, after going out in 32.  

It seemed like the more the Old Course buzzed, the better Dunne played. His best shot of the day came on the 17th, after a perfect tee shot over the Old Course Hotel sign. He pured a 4-iron around the Road Hole bunker to within 20 feet – a shot so bold that it made Louis Oosthuizen nervous for his own approach. He had picked a completely different line.  

“That second shot was one of the best I’ve seen,” Oosthuizen said.  

“That was outrageous,” Murray said.

Dunne made par on the last three holes to post 12-under 204, a score soon matched by Oosthuizen (67) and Jason Day (67).  

And so now that he’s 18 holes from history, now that he’s on the brink of becoming the first amateur since insurance salesman Johnny Goodman in 1933 to win a major, it’s worth asking:

Can Dunne actually finish this thing off?

“I don’t see why not,” he said.

“He’s there on merit,” Murray said. “He’s hit all the great shots everyone has hit.”  

Hey, Dunne even made a believer out of Oosthuizen, with whom he’ll be paired again in the finale.  

“Absolutely,” he said. “The way he played today, definitely.”

The way he played during his final year at UAB?  Maybe not.   

Dunne had only six rounds in the 60s all season; this week alone he has three.  

His best round during the college season was a 67; on Sunday of the Open, he shot 66, the lowest round ever by an amateur at St. Andrews.  

He's ranked 80th in the world ... amateur rankings. 

“He’s long and he’s strong,” said McDowell, who also attended UAB, “and he looks like he’s got a very complete game.”

Dunne was on Ireland’s men’s national team at a young age and has won at every level. His victory at the Irish Under-18 Boys Championship provided Murray, a fellow Irishman and then the UAB assistant, a glimpse into just how special of a talent he’d landed.  

Last month, Dunne had a chance to win the NCAA Championship in his final college start, but he closed with 73 and finished fifth.  

“He’s got a lot of intangibles,” Murray said. “Huge heart. Very talented. And hates to lose.”  

A few weeks ago, Murray was recruiting in Finland at the European Boys Championship when he received the call that Dunne had qualified for the Open. The timing worked out that he could catch a flight from Finland to Scotland, and together, with only a few tours of the Old Course between them, they went about preparing for the year’s third major.  

It has gone better than Dunne, Murray or anyone else could ever have imagined.  

“It’s surreal I’m leading the Open,” Dunne said, “but I can easily believe that I shot the three scores that I shot. 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.”  

Luck won’t be enough Monday, not when the forecast calls for heavy rain and a steady breeze, and not when major champions Oosthuizen, Spieth, Harrington, Justin Rose, Retief Goosen, Adam Scott and Zach Johnson are all within three shots.

So, yes, a massive stage awaits, but there is the possibility, however slight, that Dunne will channel Bobby Jones and become the first amateur in 85 years to win the Open.

“We’ll find out Monday is the easy answer,” Murray said, “but he’s handled it pretty well so far. That was a different level of intensity out there today. We saw how he handled that, didn’t we?”  

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium Course to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time.

The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine – and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Mickelson misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.