Former world No1 Rory McIlroy produced some of his best golf of a difficult year but it was not enough to prevent Ireland’s Paul Dunne from winning a first European Tour title at the British Masters.
McIlroy, in line for only the second winless season of his career, surged into contention with five consecutive birdies on the back nine to finish on 17 under par at Close House.
But Dunne, 24, eclipsed McIlroy’s 63 with a 61, holing birdies at the last two holes to land a maiden title by three strokes on his 51st European Tour outing.
“It’s a sense of relief to prove to myself that I can get it done,” said the world No192, who shot to fame by holding the 54-hole lead at the 2015 Open Championship when still an amateur.
“I feel like I have got a bit tougher mentally and I get excited to go out and look at the leaderboard, rather than trying to look at position. Once I was in front, just keep pushing, make no bogeys and see how many birdies I can make. Absolutely thrilled.”
Four-time Major winner McIlroy praised Dunne and took solace from his best round of the year and a runner-up place.
“I did everything that I wanted to do, it just wasn’t good enough in the end today,” he said.
“To shoot 61 to win his first tour event, it’s incredibly impressive. I'm happy for him as well. He works hard on his game. Every time I’m out practising or on the putting green, the chipping green, he’s always there and working hard, so it’s very well deserved.”
Overnight leader Robert Karlsson finished third on 16 under par after a closing 66, with England’s Graeme Storm in a tie for fourth two shots further back.