Kinsale’s John Murphy heads into the weekend at the Empordà Challenge sitting nicely inside the top-10 in Girona, Spain and within touching distance of the lead as he looks to secure his first professional victory.
The 23-year-old produced his second round of two-under 68 to move himself up into a share of ninth at four-under-par heading into the weekend and just four shots off the lead held by Sweden’s Jens Dantorp.
Murphy started solidly with five straight pars before dropping a shot at the par-three sixth, but three straight birdies to finish his front nine got him moving, but he sandwiched birdies at the 12th and 13th with bogeys on 11 and 14 to end the day at two-under.
That has him trailing Dantorp, who was sensational in his second round as a bogey-free eight-under 62 not only saw him claim the solo lead at eight-under-par at the halfway stage but also a share of the course record.
“I was looking for one of the other guys’ ball on 18 and I took a wrong step on the kerb to the cart path and twisted my ankle on Tuesday,” said Dantorp.
“I got some good treatment from the physio team here, Alvaro, so it feels a lot better now. I’m happy that he could have a look at it.
“I played solid today. My putter was really hot and it’s always nice to equal a course record.
“I did start thinking about 59 on 13 but I pushed it away straight away. I made some good birdies from there too, so I’m happy.”
The three-time Challenge Tour winner claimed his most recent title at Iberostar Real Club de Golf Novo Sancti Petri three weeks ago and has a good record in Spain, having finished seventh in the last edition of this event in 2021.
“Maybe it’s the tapas that helps me play so well in Spain,” he said. “I just love it here; the weather is really nice, I love to play in warm weather, which is very odd since I’m from Sweden, but I don’t like playing in the cold too much.
“You just have to try and stay aggressive, create birdie chances, and roll them in. You can’t go out and try to protect anything. There are 36 holes to play and I know I have to play well to keep my lead. That’s the mentality.”
The Swede’s advantage is two strokes over France’s Gary Stal, Scotland’s Euan Walker and Spain’s Manuel Elvira – the first round leader – as he aims to close out his fourth Challenge Tour victory and take a step towards a return to the DP World Tour.
It was also a sensational day for Ruaidhri McGee, who bettered his first round score by a whopping FOURTEEN shots as a six-over 76 was followed by his own course record equalling eight-under 62 to bring him into the equation at two-under for the tournament, sitting just inside the top-20.
The 31-year-old had four birdies on the board in his first five holes, and he would add two more either side of a bogey in his first three holes of the back nine before finishing with a flourish, three birdies in his final four holes seeing him sign for his 62.
Things were not so good for the rest of the Irish crowd, however, as Conor Purcell, Paul Dunne and Paul McBride all missed the weekend.
Six bogeys and four birdies led to back-to-back 72s for Purcell, who finished outside the top-100 at four-over, with Dunne collapsing to a 74 despite a bright start to his second round and finishing at five-over, while a 75 for McBride meant he missed out at seven-over.