A fine third round from John Murphy has the Kinsale man positioned nicely to make a run at his first Challenge Tour title on Sunday at the Manguang Open in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
The 23-year-old carded an outstanding eight-under 64 on day three at Bloemfontein Golf Club to fire up the leaderboard into a share of eighth at 15-under for the tournament, four shots behind leader Craig Ross of Scotland.
Ross still has two holes of his third round to complete due to darkness suspending play as tournament organisers continue to play catch-up after a weather delay on Thursday, with the 29-year-old holding a one-shot lead over Jbe Kruger and Scott Fernandez.
Murphy will secretly hope that when the leader resumes his third round he will not stretch away further, in which case the Irishman will begin the final round in a very strong position to mount a come from behind challenge at the title.
His third round suggests he could do so, the former Walker Cup star carding eight birdies in a bogey-free effort that has him inside the top-10 as things stand.
After a solid opening to his round, four pars to begin starting from the 10th, Murphy sparked into life with four birdies in the final five holes of his front nine to turn in four-under, and he added another birdie shortly after the turn at the par-four second.
He then finished with a flourish, three consecutive birdies coming at the fifth, sixth and seventh to sign for a 64 and he is in with a shot on Sunday if he can replicate that kind of scoring.
As good as Murphy was, Ross was even better as he played his first 16 holes in nine-under-par, two eagles and five birdies taking him one shot clear at the top and he could add to his advantage when he returns to Bloemfontein GC on Saturday morning.
With fellow countryman Ewen Ferguson leading in Kenya on the DP World Tour, Ross hopes they can make it a double, saying: “I’m delighted for Ewen. I wish him all the best for the final round because he’s a great guy and he did so well to get off the Challenge Tour last year. I hope we can both finish the week with a victory.”
He’s closely followed by Kruger, who was somehow even better still as he rode a hot start that saw him play his first five holes in six-under and would set the course record with an 11-under 61 that has him the leader in the clubhouse at 18-under alongside Fernandez.
“I am so happy because I can finally get my name on a course record,” said Kruger, a Bloemfontein native.
“I know the course very well but I was battling to read the greens over the first couple of days. I couldn’t remember the lines but slowly it came back and I hit the ball very well today. If you hit fairways and greens then it becomes a lot easier.
“I can’t describe in words how much it would mean to me to win here because this is my town. It would be a tremendous victory for me personally because it has been a tough battle.”
The Spaniard himself was impressive as an eagle and nine birdies were allied with two bogeys in his second 63 of the week, although the trio could all be overtaken by South Africa’s Luke Jerling, who is 17-under with five holes of his third round still to complete.
Meanwhile, Holywood teen Tom McKibbin still has two holes of his third round to complete, however he is down the wrong end of the leaderboard and is level-par for the round, six-under for the week.
That is actually a good return, however, given his first seven holes yielded four bogeys, with the in-form 19-year-old responding well with five birdies and one more bogey to get back to where he started the day and will hope to pick up one more shot and card a third under-par round of the week.
- Full scores HERE