Sunday blues but top-20 finish for Murphy at Manguang Open

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Sunday blues but top-20 finish for Murphy at Manguang Open

John Murphy (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Despite a disappointing final round in Bloemfontein, Kinsale’s John Murphy still managed to secure back-to-back top-20 finishes on the Challenge Tour with a tied-18th result at the Manguang Open.

The 23-year-old found the going tough on the final day in the Free State, dropping two shots early in his round and taking a while to recover, and he would have to settle for a one-over 73 in his final round to drop to 14-under overall.

A bogey on his opening hole was not the way Murphy wanted to start his day and he then compounded it with another dropped shot at the par-five fifth to make the turn in two-over, however he pulled back some of the deficit with birdies at 14 and 18, although a bogey at the par-three 16th ensured he would end the day in the black.

Having started the day in eighth, five shots off the lead, it was a frustrating fourth round for Murphy but it is still another good week on the second-tier circuit for the Irishman and he takes away €2,746.01 for his efforts.

It was a better final day for Tom McKibbin, the Holywood teen producing his worst result of the season so far by finishing in 49th at nine-under – earning €1,316.27 – but he at least had a strong final round at Bloemfontein GC with a three-under 69.

The 19-year-old fell out of contention on Saturday when he could only manage a level-par 72, but he responded well on Sunday by starting at the 10th and carding three birdies in his first four holes and, although he would double-bogey the second, two more birdies on his way back to the clubhouse represented a positive day’s work which keeps him fifth in the Race to Mallorca standings.

The victory went to Denmark’s Oliver Hundebøll, who dazzled on his back nine with five birdies to claim his first Challenge Tour win, holding off South African duo Tristen Strydom and Luke Jerling by one shot at 21-under in a dramatic finish.

The 22-year-old had bogeyed the ninth after two birdies on his front nine but after the turn he was sensational, five birdies dropping to set the clubhouse lead that would be enough for the championship as his nearest challengers collapsed in the dying stages.

Overnight leader Craig Ross was tied for the lead with three holes to play, the Scot playing his first 15 holes in one-under, but a horror finish saw him bogey the 16th and then double-bogey the par-four 17th, meaning a birdie down the last was only good for a one-over 73 and a share of fourth at 19-under.

Both Strydom and Jerling had chances to force a play-off, too, the latter particularly so, but neither could convert.

Strydom had the first chance if he had produced a birdie up the 18th as six birdies and two bogeys had him 20-under, but a par would lead to a 66 and have him one shot shy, before Jerling blew his own chance as going down the 18th tied for the lead, the South African surely would have been thinking birdie and the win or at least par and a play-off, but instead carded a bogey six on the par-five.

That left Hundebøll out on his own and, when it was all said and done, the champion in Bloemfontein.

“It feels amazing,” he said.

“I still don’t quite believe it to be honest, especially after the front nine. I managed to put together a strong back nine and the conditions felt like I was playing in Denmark. I’m used to these conditions and the key moment was making a birdie at the tenth hole after my bogey at nine. The putts started to roll in after that and it felt amazing.

“I hit a great drive on 18 and unfortunately it just found the semi-rough. I hit a four iron to try and attack the green in two but just came up short in the bunker. I hit a great bunker shot and rolled in a nice putt for birdie.

“It felt strange watching the other groups finish. When I came in I didn’t really think I could win but luckily a couple of the guys made mistakes on the last hole.

“I have loved my time in South Africa. I have seen so many amazing things and it is such a nice country. I have a flight tonight but I may choose to stay here instead.”

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