On the weekend of the Aintree Grand National, Paul Dunne led from the tape at the Open de Espana but stuttered in the final few furlongs as Spanish thoroughbred Jon Rahm surged past to claim a maiden professional title on home soil in his very first attempt.
After carding a 66 and a 65 in the opening two rounds Dunne had to fight hard to maintain his lead on Saturday and eventually gave in on Sunday as a closing round of 71 saw him finish in second on his own at 18 under par, his quest for a second professional win proving unsuccessful.
A cheque for €166,660 will be scant consolation although Dunne will move up both in the world rankings and the Ryder Cup points list as he heads into a three-week stretch of tournaments, beginning with the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco next week.
For Rahm, still just 23-years-old, it’s a fifth win and a second of the season in what is already a stellar career. A birdie at the Par 5 18th saw him sign for a round of 67 and a total of 20 under par to beat Dunne by two shots.
Centro Nacional de Golf was a far cry from Augusta National – where Rahm finished fourth last week – with the lush green landscape and dyed blue water of Georgia swapped for a former landfill site outside Madrid where the rough was more pockmarked with patches of green grass rather than covered in it.
But that didn’t matter to the current Irish Open champion who used to practice at the course while studying in Madrid before taking up a scholarship at the University of Arizona.
On the final day Dunne’s lead lasted just one hole as playing partner Nacho Elvira birdied to the Irishman’s par, while Rahm opened with back-to-back birdies to make it a three-way tie at 17 under.
Dunne struggled a little on the opening four holes on Saturday, saving par a number of times, and the feelings on Sunday were of déjà vu up until the fourth hole when his scrambling prowess finally took a knock as he failed to get up and down from the side of the green, slipping back to 16 under and out of the lead.