John Murphy is in line for another good week but will need something special in the hopes of securing himself future starts on the European Tour and boosting his chances of earning playing rights for next season at the Acciona Open de España in Madrid.
The Kinsale ace fired a two-under 69 on Saturday to reach eight-under for the week, but that actually saw him drop down the leaderboard to a share of 36th as others around him went low on a favourable day of scoring in the Spanish capital.
Murphy had looked in a good position after his front nine at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid as he responded well to a bogey at the third with birdies at the fourth, seventh and eighth to be two-under for the day at the turn. But, rather than kick on, the 23-year-old strung together six pars to start his back nine and, although he birdied the 16th to move up the standings, he finished frustratingly with a bogey to drop back down and finish with a 69.
It means Murphy’s chances of earning a berth at next week’s Andalucia Masters at Valderrama next week, reserved for the best two finishers in Madrid who haven’t already qualified for the event, are now remote as he would have to break into the top-10 to be eligible.
Still, this is a valuable learning week for the young Irishman, who is only making his fourth start on the European Tour and is also learning about how to deal with the pressure of backing up an impressive display after his top-10 finish at last week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Meanwhile, local hero Rafa Cabrera-Bello will carry a two-stroke advantage into the final day of his home Open as he roared to the best round of the day, a seven-under 64, to reach 17-under and lead from Julien Guerrier and Adri Arnaus.
The three-time European Tour winner finished second to Jon Rahm the last time this event was played in 2019 but looks well placed to go one better this year in front of large crowds at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid as he has a small buffer over the chasing pack with 18 holes to play.
A second consecutive bogey-free round helped Cabrera-Bello establish his lead, the former Ryder Cup star rattling off three successive birdies from the 13th to 15th to hit the front and keep Guerrier and fellow Spaniard Arnaus at arm’s length.
“Today was one of my favourite days ever out there, in front of my countrymen, playing on a course that I Iove and with beautiful conditions, I felt really good,” beamed Cabrera-Bello.
“I felt their support – I was getting goosebumps almost every hole hearing them yelling my name, it was very special and I’m very proud that I could put on a show for them. I played really good, I drove it well, I hit really good iron shots and I did hole some very nice important putts. I guess that’s what happens when you’re playing good.
“It would be amazing (to win). I’ve won every Spanish amateur title there is and I’m missing this one, which would be the pinnacle of Spanish golf. I’m going to have a very good chance at it tomorrow but I’m sure there’ll be more chances in the future too so I’ll just go out there, have fun, feed off the crowd and try to put on a show for them again.”
Behind him, France’s Guerrier could have held solo second but for a late bogey, but his five-under 67 which included six birdies has him alongside Arnaus, who had a 68 of his own, as the nearest challengers to Cabrera-Bello at 15-under.
Jack Senior’s excellent six-under 65, which has him fourth at 14-under, was only bettered by Cabrera-Bello and fellow Englishman Richard Bland, whose stunning 64 has him still in the mix at 12-under where he’s joined by Alexander Levy and Shubhankar Sharma.
Overnight leader Wil Besseling is also at that score after a very disappointing 72 in his third round dropped him five off the pace, while it was a similar day for a bizarrely off-colour Jon Rahm, the defending champion and World No.1 having three bogeys and a double in a 72 of his own to slip back to 11-under.
- Full scoring HERE