Murphy in the mix as fine form continues in Spain

Adam McKendry
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John Murphy (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Kinsale’s John Murphy will be confident of making a weekend push at the Empordà Challenge in Girona after back-to-back four-under 67s has him inside the top-10 at the halfway stage.

The 23-year-old, making just his 10th start on the Challenge Tour, is eight-under after two rounds in Spain and trails joint-leaders Andrew Wilson and Julien Brun by four strokes as he looks to turn his recent momentum into a victory on the second-tier Tour.

After finishing ninth at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour two weeks ago, and then making the cut and finishing 24th at the Acciona Open de España last week, Murphy is a man in form and he has continued it at Empordà Golf.

It was a closing eagle that has him right in the mix at the midway point of the tournament, the Irishman having come to life on the back nine after just one birdie and one bogey prior to the turn.

Back-to-back birdies then followed at 11 and 12 to move him up the leaderboard, but it was an eagle on the par-five 18th that will give him some key momentum heading into Saturday’s third round as he looks to close the gap to the leaders.

Galgorm’s Michael Hoey is also in for the weekend as he kept things simple with just two birdies and one bogey in his one-under 70 that has him tied for 44th going into the weekend at three-under overall, nine back of the lead.

The 42-year-old still harbours ambitions of breaking into the top-20 who qualify for European Tour playing rights next season, and birdies at the ninth and 13th in his second round at least has him making progression in his second round, although he is projected to drop to 33rd in the Race to Mallorca standings.

Meanwhile, joint leader Wilson is thrilled to be in the position he is after a “dreadful” recent run which has seen him miss the last three cuts, the 27-year-old Englishman carding eight birdies and one bogey in his second round to reach 12-under alongside Brun.

“I played really solid,” Wilson said modestly. “I played nice again yesterday and I just wanted to get the monkey off my back as I missed the last three cuts, so I just wanted to make the weekend and see what I can do.

“I think it is my scoring ability, I’ve really struggled in my last three events; it’s been pretty dreadful to be honest with you. I holed a few putts at the crucial times and carried that on.”

It’s a different story for Brun, however, the Frenchman having had a consistent season on the Challenge Tour with top-10 finishes in each of his last three starts and he looks destined for the European Tour next year at fifth in the Race to Mallorca.

“There’s been a few events now where I have felt a bit more relaxed. I am really focused on my process and my work, and I try to get better every day. I try to play better on the course and get that momentum and that work for next year on the main tour,” said Brun, who won the Open de Bretagne earlier this season.

“I am very pleased, because I don’t feel that great with my game especially off the tee and with the long shots, so I am very pleased with the position I am in.”

The pair are two strokes clear of Max Rottluff at the halfway stage, the German carding back-to-back 66s to sit 10-under, with Alfredo Garcia-Heredia, Jens Dantorp and Jacques Blaauw tied for fourth at nine-under.

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