NEWCASTLE: Ireland's Paul Dunne celebrated a maiden European Tour victory as he denied a charging Rory McIlroy to capture the British Masters title in Newcastle on Sunday (Oct 1) with a spectacular final round of 61.
The 24-year-old Dunne laid the platform for a closing 18-hole effort of nine-under-par with three birdies and an eagle in his first six holes Sunday at the Close House course in northeast England.
That gave him a combined tournament total of 20 under-par and a win by three shots from McIlroy, with Sweden's Robert Karlsson, who had led by a shot heading to the final day, posting a 66 for third place at 16-under par.
Four-time major winner McIlroy had moved to within a shot of Dunne in shooting 63 on Sunday for a total of 17-under.
But Dunne held his nerve brilliantly and answered McIlroy's challenge with birdies over his closing two holes, including sensationally chipping-in from well off the green at the last.
'PUT THE FOOT DOWN'
Dunne's victory, his first in 51 tour events, helped make amends for his defeat in a play-off for the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco earlier this year.
The Irishman had also lead the 2015 British Open Championship going into the final round.
"It feels great to finally win as I have been up there a few times this year but have never really got to put the foot down on Sunday," said Dunne.
"So, in waking up this morning I said to myself I am going to try and win it rather than have someone else hand it to me and thankfully I did it, and hopefully I can do it again.
"Also what happened in Morocco was a help as I had a couple of shots lead late in my final round then but Edoardo (Molinari) finished birdie, eagle so I was just waiting today for someone like McIlroy to have a hole-in-one on the last or something like that."
McIlroy birdied three holes in succession over his opening nine but after dropping a shot at 11 the World No 6 put began to put real pressure on Dunne with a further three birdies in a row from the 12th along with birdies at 16 and 17.
"It was a good weekend and just nice to have a chance to win a golf tournament as that was big thing and the more chances I have like that I seem to play better," explained McIlroy.
"I started okay today and a little more slower than Saturday to be three-under through nine but then Paul got off to a great start.
"But I set myself a target on the back nine to shoot four-under and finish 17-under to feel like I have a chance, so I did everything I wanted to do and it was just not good enough in the end."
Meanwhile the 28-year-old McIlroy, who secured his best finish since capturing last year's PGA Tour Championship, was full of praise for Dunne.
"It was unbelievable for Paul to shoot a 61 to win his first tournament and was incredibly impressive, and I am very happy for him as he has worked hard on his game," said McIlroy, who turned pro in the British Masters a decade ago.
McIlroy now now heads north to Scotland for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which starts on Thursday, still looking for a first win of 2017 in what is set to be his last event of the year.
"I am looking forward to the Dunhill and I my dad rang me a couple of days ago saying 'it is good you have got your game in shape' which was great", said a smiling McIlroy.
"We always have a great time up there in Scotland."
McIlroy will not want reminding, however, that of his 22 professional victories worldwide, none have taken place in Scotland, widely regarded as 'the home of golf'.