Dunne, another member of the '11 Class making a splash

By Doug Ferguson
Published on
Dunne, another member of the '11 Class making a splash

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The high school class of 2011 has another member this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, although Paul Dunne is different from the others.

For starters, he's from Ireland.

And it's not like he grew up playing junior golf against Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Emiliano Grillo, Daniel Berger or the others.

"I played the Junior Players Championship. That was the only AJGA event I played," Dunne said Tuesday. "I played all my junior golf mostly in Ireland or around Europe with the Irish national team. So I didn't travel to America too much, so I didn't really get exposed to those kind of people."

Dunne rose to a measure of fame last summer at St. Andrews when he became the first amateur since Bobby Jones in 1927 to have at least a share of the 54-hole lead in the British Open. He closed with a 78 and wound up fourth among amateurs.

He stayed an amateur to play in the Walker Cup, and then earned his European Tour card at qualifying school. Because he has a low priority, and the European Tour events are strong in the Middle East, Dunne took a sponsor's exemption and will make his PGA Tour debut at Torrey Pines.

Dunne went to Alabama-Birmingham, the alma mater of former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, so he knows players from his class. Thomas stands out because he went to Alabama, and they played several events together. He just hasn't played in the same group as Thomas or Spieth.

Also in the field this week is Ryan Ruffels of Australia, the 17-year-old who recently turned pro.

Dunne is 22.

"I think he's more advanced than I was at 17, Dunne said. "He's obviously proven that he can play well and compete at high levels. So if he feels like he can come out and do well straight away, then I have absolutely no issue with his decision to turn pro. But for me, I always wanted to go to college. My parents always instilled kind of academic excellence in the family, so they were always big on me getting a college degree and then make my own decisions after that."


BACK TO SCHOOL: Beau Hossler was in good shape to be low amateur at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club until he closed with a 76, making a double bogey on the 18th hole. That meant low amateur went to Texas sophomore Jordan Spieth, who closed with a 70.

They will be featured together as teammates in two weeks at the Northern Trust Open Collegiate Showcase at Riviera, when 14 college players will team with a PGA Tour player from their school and two amateur boosters.

Hossler is a junior at Texas.

Spieth is No. 1 in the world with over $21.6 million in career earnings.

The exhibition is Feb. 15, and while the pros and amateur boosters compete for a $50,000 donation to the school's golf program, the college player with the best score earns a spot in the Northern Trust Open. A year ago, Will Zalatoris of Wake Forest was the only college player to break par (67) in the Collegiate Showcase, and then he had rounds of 76-71 to miss the cut.

Other PGA Tour players taking part are Jim Furyk (Arizona), Paul Casey (Arizona State), Jimmy Walker (Baylor), Hudson Swafford (Georgia), J.B. Holmes (Kentucky), Luke Donald (Northwestern), Bronson Burgoon (Texas A&M), Kevin Chappell (UCLA), Charley Hoffman (UNLV), Jamie Lovemark (USC), Kyle Reifers (Wake Forest) and Nick Taylor (Washington).


BACK TO WORK: Michelle Wie described her offseason as "doing nothing."

Except for swimming with sharks. And getting some tips on her short game from Tiger Woods.

Wie said her swim with the sharks was a bucket list item, though she was a little skeptical (and terrified) to learn there was no cage involved. Once she got in the water, she described it as a "peaceful" swim.

As for the work with Woods.

She said he had a clinic at the Medalist, and because Woods can still do little more than walk, asked her to come along to hit the shots. Both are Nike clients. Both are Stanford alum (Wie graduated). But she says she had not seen him for "like 14 years."

What was the short-game tip?

"A secret," she said. "But it was cool. We were just kind of talking about it and stuff. I mean, he has the best short game, besides Phil (Mickelson). All the guys are good at short games. He has to be one of the best."


THE BEST PRACTICE: The best place to see great golf swings might be on the range in the twilight hours after a major.

That's how it was for Smylie Kaufman.

He recalls Tiger Woods winning the Masters in 2005 and heading straight to the golf course.

"I would play four holes and just stripe it," Kaufman said.

That's how it was for Justin Thomas, who said the hour of practicing after a major is "the best you play all year" because young players are so inspired.

Emiliano Grillo of Argentina is in that group. Angel Cabrera won his first major in the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, and Grillo couldn't wait to get a club in his hand.

"When he won, I ran to the golf course," he said. "There was still a little daylight. I did a little practice, and it was a great practice. The best I ever hit it."


DIVOTS: Fabian Gomez (Sony Open) and Jason Dufner (CareerBuilder Challenge) were both outside the top 100 in the world when they won. The last time the PGA Tour had back-to-back winners outside the top 100 were last June when David Lingmerth won the Memorial and Gomez won the St. Jude Classic. ... According to the PGA Tour, the CareerBuilder Challenge was the first time Phil Mickelson has played bogey-free on the weekend of a 72-hole event. ... Chris Riley was among the four players who qualified Monday for the Farmers Insurance Open. ... Bubba Watson will be returning to China in April to play in the Shenzhen International. Watson and Li Haotong will be ambassadors for the tournament April 21-24, two weeks after the Masters. Watson tied for 29th last year. Li lost in a playoff.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Jordan Spieth is the only player from the top 20 in the world to have won on the PGA Tour since the season began in October.


FINAL WORD: "Phil (Mickelson) quit playing here in Kapalua because he wanted to spend time with his family. Now a lot of people to spend time with their family, they come here." — PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem on the number of players who brought their family to Hawaii for the start of the new year.