Murphy refusing to get ahead of himself as dream run continues

John Craven

John Murphy - Getty Images

John Craven

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When John Murphy sat down for a very brief reflection on a breakthrough performance at the Alfred Dunhill Links last week, he Tweeted: “Teeing it up in the final group at the Dunhill was something a younger me only ever dreamed of.”

Looking at his play over the first two days at the Open de Espana and it might just be a dream the Kinsale man’s living for a very long time.

Murphy fired his second successive round of 68 to breeze into the weekend at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, albeit seven shots back from the lead at six-under par. The last time we spoke in September he’d just banked a career high cheque worth €3,500 for a final round 65 at the Big Green Egg German Challenge. Last week he hit the big time with a tied ninth finish at the Home of Golf worth €81,543. Much has changed it seems.

“Not that much, not that much,” he protests with a laugh, albeit with the wheels in motion for another big week, sitting pretty just outside the top-20 on another main tour leaderboard. “A lot of golf left to played but going alright so far, thankfully,” he agreed.

Having walked the plank last week in the final round of one of the biggest events on Tour alongside former Masters Champion Danny Willett, did he feel more comfortable this time ‘round having safely come out the other side?

“I suppose… I don’t know really. I did feel pretty comfortable all last week but having said that, my expectations – it’s not a word I like to use – but they might’ve changed a little bit,” he says.

“Last week, if you had offered me a made cut at the start of the week, I probably would’ve taken it and said ‘yeah, that’s a pretty decent week – first made cut on the European Tour’. I would’ve been happy with it…

“But now obviously this week, as you said, a certain amount has changed in so far as I’m trying to finish as high up there as I can now and see where that takes me.”

Starting from the tenth tee on Friday, two quick bogeys in four holes briefly spelled trouble for the 23-year old, but we didn’t write a feature with Murphy entitled ‘The Old Head from Kinsale’ last year for nothing. Murphy was unfazed.

“I realised walking off the fifth tee, I was like ‘right, that’s not good – I’m probably not even near the cut-line now’.

“I just did my best to stay present. Keep making good swings. It’s something I’ve been working on a lot recently. Good golf normally comes from that and thankfully made a few birdies around the turn.”

He’s modest. He actually made five in his next six holes, no doubt inspired by childhood neighbour, podcast host and this week’s caddie, Shane O’Connell whispering ‘Talk Birdie To Me’ calmly in his ear.

Having come so close at St. Andrews last week, where a double bogey ‘6’ at the ninth hole on the final day halted his title challenge, had he considered what he could’ve done differently should the opportunity arise again so soon?

“I’d love to get that ninth tee shot back, that’s for sure,” he laughed. “I haven’t had much time to think about it to be honest, and I didn’t really want to reflect on it and maybe distract myself from this week.

“I stayed in St. Andrews on Sunday night and flew straight over. As soon as I landed in Spain I’ve been fully focussed on this, trying to do the best job I could. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of that so far so when all this blows over and I’ve time, I’ll sit down and assess what’s gone on the last few weeks.”

Only a couple of shots off another top-10, albeit with a long way to go in Madrid, Murphy’s all too aware of the prize that awaits another lucrative finish, but he also knows thinking about it won’t help him achieve it:

“Obviously a top-10 would be ideal and get into Valderrama next week but I’m not going to think about that because if you do, it probably distracts you from the moment. I’ll just play as well as I can over the weekend and wherever that leaves me, we’ll assess from there.”

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