Murphy races out of the blocks with 67 at The Belfry

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John Murphy (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Kinsale’s John Murphy kicked off his British Challenge bid with a five-under par round of 67 to trail Todd Clements by four strokes after day one at The Belfry Hotel & Resort.

The 23-year old former Louisville Cardinal fired an eagle, five birdies but did card a double-bogey ‘6’ at the ninth leaving him in a tie for sixth at five-under as he goes in search of a timely move on this season’s Road to Mallorca.

That was the best the Irish could muster on an opening day that saw Conor O’Rourke card an eagle and one birdie in a bogey-free three-under 69 to sit in a tie for 24th at three-under. Gavin Moynihan posted four birdies and an eagle in a two-under 70 while Michael Hoey was back at even par.

At the top, Clements posted a career-low nine-under par round of 63 to open a two-stroke lead after the first day in Sutton. The Englishman came home in just 30 shots, six under par, to move two clear of countryman Ben Hutchinson and Chile’s Hugo Leon, who both carded opening seven under par rounds of 65.

The 25-year-old struggled for form in the early part of the season, making just three cuts from ten starts, but has showed an upturn in form after returning from a self-imposed four-week break from competition to work on his game.

“I took a four-week break in the middle of the season,” he said. “I wasn’t playing great and I just had to find my game and what I fully believe I can do and I’ve come out and found a bit of form, which is great, and hopefully now I can just keep pressing on.

“I played great today. It was one of those days where everything went for me but the putter was hot. It hasn’t happened this year but it’s great that it happened here, on home soil. I played great and just good control with my irons and off the tee I was well-placed strategically, so I’m pleased with my day’s work.

“I lost myself out there. I saw the TV crew turn up on 18 and said to my caddie ‘I’ve had quite a few birdies but I’ve lost track’.”

Clements is currently 80th on the Road to Mallorca Rankings and will require a strong run of results if he is to earn a spot in the season-ending Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final Supported by The R&A, but his self-belief is clear for all to see.

“It’s a great start but tomorrow is a new day, new pins and it’s like a new golf course. I’ll concentrate on my first shot, my first hole and sign my scorecard tomorrow and see where we are.

“I fully believe that I’m good enough to contend out here and seeing your name at the top of the leaderboard gives you the confidence for the week.”

Road to Mallorca Number Ten Craig Howie shares fourth place with Spaniard Samuel Del Val on six under par, while English duo Alfie Plant and Andrew Wilson and Irishman John Murphy are a shot further back on five under par.

Play was suspended due to darkness with one group still to finish their opening round. The second round of the British Challenge Presented by Modest! Golf Management gets under way at 6:50am on Friday, with Clements teeing it up at 7:30am alongside Spain’s Mario Galiano Aguilar and Sweden’s Jesper Svensson.

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