Murphy under-par as darkness delays opening round bid in Spain

John Murphy (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

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Kinsale’s John Murphy carded a birdie and nine pars through his opening 10 holes before play was called to a halt on the opening day of the weather-affected Costa Brava Challenge.

Looking to nail down his playing rights on the Challenge Tour for next season, Murphy sits 69th with the top-70 set to secure Category 10 status next term with Murphy hoping for more knowing top-45 on the Order of Merit means further opportunity at next month’s Grand Final.

“I suppose if I can try push into the top-45, it would be a nicer goal for this week,” Murphy says of the November 4-7 Grand Final at T Golf and Country Club.

It’s been a manic stretch of golf for Murphy since turning to the paid ranks. Off limited starts, he’s taken full advantage, opening doors that once stood shut due to his own relentless consistency.

No finer example of that came at this same venue last week where he signed off on four straight 67’s for a podium finish on Sunday. Teeing up again this afternoon, there’s no rest for the wicked on this condensed calendar, but with light at the end of the tunnel, the Kinsale man is primed to give it all he’s got in one almighty end of year push.

“It’s obviously mentally fatiguing but it’s mentally fatiguing for everybody,” Murphy says. “Everybody’s going to be that little bit more tired so I’ll try use that to my advantage. The course will probably play trickier with higher winds forecast but I’m looking forward to that challenge, and as much and all as I’m mentally exhausted right now after a long summer, I know I don’t have much more to go so I’ve got to give it everything I have now and see where that leaves me in the end.”

At one-under par halfway through his opening round, Murphy is six shots back of Frederic Lacroix who posted a seven-under par round of 64 to open a two-stroke lead on day one. The Frenchman leads by two from a group of seven players including Italy’s Filippo Bergamaschi, who only managed to complete nine holes of his opening round as play was suspended at 6:54pm local time, following a delay of two hours and 40 minutes at the start of the day due to heavy fog at Empordà Golf.

Lacroix is currently 13th on the Road to Mallorca Rankings and today’s opening effort, which included eagles at the fifth and the 18th, was the perfect start as he looks to secure his European Tour card for the 2022 season.

“It’s great, when you shoot low numbers like that, it’s great,” he said.

“I missed my driver to the right on the fifth and it bounced back up on the fairway. I had about 79 yards to the pin and I hit a really good wedge shot there and I was straight on line. I couldn’t see it because it was just behind the bunker, but I it was a good shot.

“I hit a good drive on the 18th which found the fairway and left me with a seven iron in. I hit it to six yards and it had a good roll on it.”

The 26-year-old admits that it makes a difference playing the same course as last week, however due to the weather delayed start he had to remain patient and take his chances when they arose.

“It’s like the two we played in the south of Spain earlier this year, you learn a lot in the first week and you can take it into the second.

“I started hitting some balls just in case the fog went away, but I just sat down in the players’ lounge and had a sandwich and I just had to wait. There’s nothing you can do really, you just need to have patience and off you go.

“I am pretty happy with my game, so I am looking forward to getting back out again. I think the conditions are going to be pretty similar, so we’ll see. It’s going to be a good fight.”

Danish duo Niklas Nørgaard Møller and Oliver Hundebøll, Norway’s Kristian Krogh Johannessen, Sweden’s Pelle Edberg, Robbie van West, of the Netherlands, and the United States’ Chase Hanna all join Bergamaschi in a tie for second place having all signed for five under par rounds of 66.

Five players share a tie for ninth on four under par including Road to Mallorca Number Two Ricardo Gouveia and four-time European Tour winner Matteo Manassero.

The first round of the Costa Brava Challenge was suspended due to darkness at 6:54pm local time and will resume at 9:00am on Wednesday October 20, with round two starting at approximately 10:40am.

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