Belek, Turkey: Ireland’s Paul Dunne boosted his hopes of appearing in next month’s season-ending European Tour event with a bogey-free seven-under par 64 on the opening day of the Turkish Airlines Open on Thursday.
The 25-year-old began and ended his round in Belek with birdies to head the 78-player field by a shot in ideal scoring conditions on the Regnum Caya course.
Fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington along with defending champion Justin Rose and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, who won he event two years ago, are just a shot further back after rounds of 65.
Double major winning Martin Kaymer produced his lowest Tour opening round all season to be among seven players signing for five-under par 66s.
Dunne’s score is his lowest first round since a similar 64 on his professional debut at the 2015 Alfred Dunhill Links in Scotland while he closed with a blistering career-low 61 just over a year ago to deny Rory McIlroy in capturing the British Masters crown.
Dunne arrived in Turkey lying 54th on the Tour’s Race to Dubai but having managed just two top-10s in his 20 prior tournaments this year and needing to be inside the leading 60 at the close of next week’s Nedbank Challenge in South Africa to be assured of heading to the Dubai ‘Race’ decider.
"My iron play was pretty good today and that was the biggest thing I did out there well,” he said.
"The overall game is also a lot better as I had a six-week competitive stretch a while ago and it was as bad as I have had but then a few good weeks here and it turns out to be a great year.
“I played in the DP World last year for the first time and I would love to be back there in a few weeks while a win would tick off a good few of those boxes.”
Harrington began his round with three birdies in succession while he also birdied the fifth as the 47-year old seeks to win for a first time since capturing the 2016 Portugal Masters.
“The birdies I made were all from pretty short distance starting with nothing more than 12-feet on four of my first five holes while I holed a couple of long ones near the end including that 25-footer on 17,” said Harrington.
Since returning to Europe in missing the cut at the PGA Championship Harrington has produced three top-10s in six events.
“Without a doubt, on more European-style golf courses, just the slightly slower greens does make all the difference to my game,” he said.
“It gives me quite a bit of freedom on the greens and around the greens to get up-and-down.”
Rose capped his round holing a 39-yard wedge shot for an eagle two at the par-4 fourth hole and then managed four birdies also in a bogey-free round.