Murphy last Irishman standing after moving day 69 at Fancourt

Adam McKendry
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Murphy last Irishman standing after moving day 69 at Fancourt

John Murphy (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

John Murphy will fly the Irish flag solo in the final round of the Challenge Tour’s opening event the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt Estate in South Africa as his three fellow countrymen missed the 54-hole cut.

The Kinsale man carded his best round of the week thus far on Saturday, a four-under 69 on The Links course that included seven birdies and three bogeys, to make the four-under cut line by three shots at seven-under for the week.

But he will not be joined in the final round by Niall Kearney, Gavin Moynihan or Paul Dunne, who all found themselves on the wrong side of the top-65 at the close of play.

Royal Dublin man Kearney was the closest to joining him, a two-under 70 on the Outeniqua course getting him up to two-under for the week as well, however that was two shots too many, with Moynihan’s two-over 75 at The Links leaving him one-under.

Given his injury issues, Dunne may not be too discouraged just to be back on the course as he finished with a level-par 72 on the Outeniqua, closing the week at two-over, but the stats will only reflect that it is a missed cut for the Greystones man.

Although in for the final day, Murphy would need an outstanding final round to claim the win as he is 12 shots adrift of Germany’s Alexander Knappe, who leads by one over New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier and South Africa’s Dean Burmester at 19-under.

“It was a good round,” Knappe said. “It was really hot at the end so I struggled a bit to keep my energy and focus but I’m really pleased with it.

“It’s really beautiful here. I always come to Fancourt to practice. I was here in November and December and in January, I came out here three weeks early and this is my home base, basically, in the winter and it’s just beautiful here and I love it.”

23-year-old Murphy – back on the Challenge Tour after making his PGA Tour debut last weekend at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am – finished his round strongly on Saturday with three birdies in his final six holes, ensuring he would be in for Sunday, after an up-and-down first half of his round that saw him compound birdies with bogeys.

Murphy had started well, birdieing the first and third, but gave those shots back at the fourth and sixth before adding two more birdies at the seventh and ninth prior to another bogey on the 10th. However, he had a comfortable end to his day with birdies at 13, 16 and 18 to book a Sunday tee time.

Meanwhile, Kearney came close to making it into the final round but, needing to play his final seven holes in one-under, he would instead play them in one-over to miss out by carding a 70.

The 33-year-old had given himself a chance with four birdies in his first 11 holes, his only bogey coming at the third, but a bogey at the 14th and four more pars to close ended his hopes of sticking around.

Donabate’s Moynihan never recovered from a double-bogey on the opening hole of his third round, giving himself a chance with three birdies at the fifth, sixth and ninth but dropping three more shots on his way back to the clubhouse in a disappointing 75.

It would have taken a big round for Dunne to make it, and he gave it a good go with three birdies, but three bogeys alongside them condemned him to an early exit after a 72 left him two-over.

Knappe may lead by one with a round to play after a six-under 66 consisting of six birdies at the Montagu course in round three took him to 19-under, the German bogey-free for the week thus far, but he has two very talented and in-form players chasing him down.

Both Hillier and two-time European Tour winner Burmester carded nine-under 63s on Saturday, at the Montagu and Outanequi courses respectively, to pull one shot behind him at 18-under and carry the momentum into the final round as they look to overhaul the German.

Burmester in particular had a memorable round that included three eagles – at the par-five fourth and par-fours 11th and 16th – five birdies and two bogeys to position himself nicely going into the final day, especially given he was three-over after his first three holes on Thursday.

“It was a good moving day, especially with a 29 back, super impressive,” Burmester said. “I played solid on the front. The bogey on nine was a little silly but from ten onwards I was pretty much flawless. On 16 I just hit a perfect little cut-up driver with the wind that went to about 25 feet, I had a downhill left to righter and I rolled that in.

“It’s surreal when I’m stood on the 17th tee with that view, taking pictures with my amateurs, and I’m thinking ‘I’ve had three eagles today and here I am with a chance after my start’.

“I’ve got great memories here; it was the first cut I ever made as a professional and I always want to try and come back and support this event and support Dimension Data. To have another chance to win, I’ve had a couple of goes at it and been quite close, if I can have another go and come out on top, that would be the cherry on the cake.”

In order for it not to be a three-way race for the title, one of Ivan Cantero Guttierez, Richard Mansell or Jacques Blaauw looks to be likeliest to force their way into the equation, the trio sitting tied fourth at 14-under, with Denmark’s Nicolai Kristensen at 13-under.

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