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Records smashed and history in the making

Irish Amateur Paul Dunne can win The Open Championship

Only one person truly believes that Dunne to go on and win The Open today and his name is Paul Dunne. The Greystones wonder-kid grabbed a “surreal” share of the lead and those who know him are convinced he won’t beat himself.

Fellow Greystones Golf Club man Alan Murray is on his bag and knows him better than most as his former coach at the University of Alabama Birmingham. Before the event even started, Murray said: “You root for those guys - the ones who go about it the right way... he’s one of life’s winners.

“Mentally he is very strong. For want of a better term, he’s one tough cookie and he will rarely beat himself.”

Dunne, 22, shot a bogey free 66 to make history by becoming the first Irish amateur to lead The Open at the end of a round, shaving a stroke off the lowest Open round by an amateur on the Old Course.

He shares top spot on 12 under par with 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Aussie ace Jason Day with the reigning Masters and US Open champion Spieth lurking just a shot behind.

With Harrington only two back on 10 under, Dunne has every right to run and hide. But he’s cool as a cucumber after smashing the 54-hole record for an amateur in the Open by five strokes — after all, he’s one of the best amateurs in the world.

Confessing he’s a little out of his comfort zone, Dunne gave a reporter, who wants to know if it was “surreal” he was leading, the answer he wanted.

“Yeah, it’s surreal I’m leading The Open, but I can easily believe that I shot the three scores that I shot,” he said in a packed media centre environment normally reserved for the likes of Rory McIlroy or Harrington, or Graeme McDowell.

“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.”

That comment brought some laugher but Dunne’s no joke.

“Hopefully I can do it again tomorrow, but whether I do or not, you know, I’ll survive either way,” he said in a demonstration of his cool, clear way of thinking things through.

After a round featuring six birdies and no mistakes, he confessed that to lead a major into the final round in just his second professional event, is amazing.

But he still has work to do on an incredible leaderboard where the top 32 players are covered by just six shots and the top 17 by just four. He said: “It’s something I’ll look back on and think is cool, but mid-tournament I’m just going to keep trying to focus on playing my shots and getting ready for tomorrow and just playing the best that I can, really.

“It feels great. I felt like I had so much support from the crowd today. I kind of felt like I was at home. Every shot I hit was getting cheered from start to finish, so big thanks to the crowd out there. 

“They kept me lifted the whole way through. It was great to play with Louis Oosthuizen today. He’s obviously a great role model for me, great player, someone I look up to. 

“He was a really nice playing partner, so yeah, just really enjoyed it. It was such a fun day.”

As Harrington blasted seven birdies in a 65 to set the target at 10 under put himself in position to win Major No 4 and his third Open, overnight leader Dustin Johnson crashed to a 75 that left him five behind the leaders.

As Dunne was coming into the Media Centre for his press conference, he was congratulated by Des Smyth, who is working for BBC Five Live.

“It’s marvellous what he is doing,” said Smyth, who had chances to win the Open in his heyday. “And it’s been done before by Bobby Jones. 

“How will he feel? It’s very exciting. And he’ll be up for it. He will be nervous sure, but he’s young and he’ll enjoy it. It’s a wonderful buzz.”

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