Rory McIlroy paid “impressive” Paul Dunne the biggest compliment of his life after the Dubliner emerged triumphant in their epic final-round battle at the British Masters.
McIlroy commented: “I did everything I set out to do — I set myself a target of getting to 17 under par heading into the back nine, because I felt that score would have a great chance, and I was able to get to that number.
“When you start the final round two off the lead and shoot seven under you have to like your chances.
“But the fact that I came up well short shows just how incredibly impressive Paul’s performance was.
“I don’t think I could have done anything more and you just have to accept that something pretty close to your best golf sometimes isn’t good enough.
“And Paul deserves this. “He works incredibly hard at his game and I fully expect him to kick on after this and clock up more wins.
“He’s usually one of the first guys out there practising and there have been quite a few occasions when I’ve arrived after him and seen him still working his socks off when I’m leaving. “And to earn your first win in that fashion — shooting a bogey-free 61 and finishing birdie-birdie when the pressure was really on him — shows he played unbelievable golf.”
McIlroy conjured up five birdies in his final seven holes to close to within a shot of Dunne as the second-year pro stood on the 17th tee.