John Murphy introduced himself to the golfing world at last week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and at this week’s Acciona Open de España, he faces a new challenge – proving he’s not a one-hit wonder.
The Kinsale man dazzled on just his third European Tour start on some of the toughest links venues Scotland has to offer, competing right to the end on Sunday against the likes of former Masters champion Danny Willett and fellow countryman and Open champion Shane Lowry, and while his efforts didn’t end in victory, finishing ninth was by no means a poor result.
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“I know I have a lot of improving to do,” Murphy said after his top-10 in Scotland. “I know that I’m not the longest hitter out there, I’m not the straightest driver out there, my approach play isn’t the best out there, my putting is not the best, but when I stand on the first tee, I convince myself that I can go to toe to toe with anybody out there, and I think I can.”
And while one good week is to be commended, now Murphy knows he has to try and back it up by continuing that momentum in his bid to earn full-time status on the European Tour next season as this year’s schedule starts to wrap up.
As such, the 23-year-old heads to Club de Campo Villa de Madrid hoping to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Padraig Harrington, Peter Lawrie, Eamonn Darcy and Eddie Polland in winning the Spanish national championship and earning his Tour card for next year.
He faces a formidable task to do so, as standing in his way is the imposing figure of World No.1 and two-time defending champion Jon Rahm, who returns to his native land to try and become only the second three-time winner of the Open de España, after Seve Ballesteros.
“It would be very unique. I know names like Ollie (José María Olazábal), he couldn’t win it and I know he would have loved to have done it. I would hope to be able to get to a third not only to tie Seve but to win it three times in a row,” said US Open champion and Ryder Cup star Rahm.
“It doesn’t matter what event it is, not many people have been able to win one three times in a row so I’m hoping I can get it done – it would be truly my honour.
“It’s coming back home that’s important. It’s very fun to play in front of the crowd, they’re very golf hungry in this country. Especially after Covid and the pandemic they haven’t really had the opportunity to enjoy many sporting events so I’m hoping we can put on a good show for them.”
Joining them there will be the Northern Irish duo of Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin, who both have differing agendas for the end of the season that they hope they can further in Madrid this week.
Having already wrapped up his Tour card for the next two seasons with his win at the Scandinavian Mixed, Caldwell still has designs on cracking the top-60 in the Race to Dubai and securing his place at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, but has only five events – including this week – to improve his ranking of 91st.
Meanwhile, Sharvin is in a battle to ensure he will have playing rights for next season as he sits 161st in the order of merit, needing to break back into the top-115 to avoid having to head to Q-School.
It is a relatively strong field that will assemble in Madrid this week, with Rahm’s European Ryder Cup team-mate Bernd Wiesberger also teeing it up, as will the likes of France’s Victor Perez and Australia’s Min Woo Lee, while Rafa Cabrera Bello will be another who will be a favourite of the home fans. This is the first of three consecutive Spanish events on the European Tour, with next week’s Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters being followed by the Mallorca Golf Open.
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