John Murphy was the only Irish player to finish under-par after the first round of the Challenge Tour’s SDC Open in Limpopo, South Africa.
The 23-year-old opened with a one-under 71 at Zebula Golf Estate to trail leader Joel Girrbach by eight shots, however it could have been much better as at one point he was five-under.
Having started at the 10th, Murphy was bogey-free through the first 12 holes of his round as he carded an eagle and three birdies, but four bogeys in his final six holes dropped him back down into a share of 64th, on the cut line.
That’s two shots better than Richard O’Donovan, who signed for a one-over 73 in his first round, while Gavin Moynihan was a shot further adrift after a 74 that leaves both of them with plenty of work to do to make the cut.
O’Donovan, playing the second course on the rotation this week, Elements Private Golf Course, was one-under thru 12 holes but bogeyed the 13th and 18th to drop outside the cut line and into tied-116th. Back at Zebula, a double-bogey on his first hole had Moynihan playing catch-up and two birdies and two bogeys would leave him at two-over and down in 145th.
Despite Elements Private playing the tougher of the two courses, Girrbach pulled one clear of the chasing pack with a fantastic bogey-free nine-under 63 that saw him birdie six of his final seven holes in South Africa to put himself at the top of the leaderboard.
The 28-year-old Swiss has struggled to recreate the form that saw him win the Challenge Tour’s Swiss Challenge in 2017 but will back himself heading to the statistically easier Zebula course on day two.
“I didn’t start too well and struggled over the first few holes, but after that I somehow found my game. I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for this week so this start is great,” he said.
Girrbach is just one shot ahead of France’s Clement Sordet and South Africa’s Ruan de Smidt, who both finished with eight-under 64s at Zebula – the latter of whom’s included two eagles – with England’s Marco Penge finishing with a 65 at the same course to sit solo fourth.
The in-form JC Ritchie, who already has two wins on the Challenge Tour this season and needs only one more to earn automatic promotion to the DP World Tour, is only four shots back after a 67 at Elements Private, a shot behind a group of five players at six-under.
- Full scoring HERE