On Tuesday, John Murphy played 36-holes of Open Qualifying at Fairmont St Andrews hoping to win one of four sports on offer into next month’s Major at the Home of Golf.
On Wednesday, Murphy arrived to Mount Juliet empty-handed, faced with nine holes of practice ahead of another huge opportunity at the $6m Horizon Irish Open.
As far as preparation goes, this wouldn’t be the norm, particularly for the Kinsale man who likes to arrive early to his usual Challenge Tour stops and undergo a thorough and meticulous examination of the task at hand.
However, in his no stone unturned approach to the pro ranks, and despite not officially getting the nod to compete until Monday, Murphy was never going to be caught out completely. Together with his team, Murphy identified a couple of hopeful dates for the diary earlier in the year. The Palmer South at the K Club for the Irish Challenge was one of them. Mount Juliet was another.
“It was just a case of doing the ground work in case I got an invite,” Murphy said. “I went through a few things with Emma [O’Driscoll – manager] and my team at the start of the year and that led to me being in Mount Juliet a few weeks ago in preparation for what could be a busy summer and thankfully that forward thinking paid off.”
What’s more, Murphy can also put his faith in the hands of trusty lieutenant and caddie, Shane O’Connell who’s been busy prepping in his employer’s stead.
“All credit to Shane, he’s been up here since Monday, drove up and down every day hiking the golf course, sussing out where the misses are etc. so I suppose I’ll be heavily reliant on him for the week but I’ve every faith in him.”
It might come as a surprise to read, but until just a few days ago, the only man Murphy was beginning to doubt was himself. At the Challenge Tour’s Open de Bretagne, the foundation of Murphy’s game – his driving – abandoned him for two rounds as he missed the cut in France.
It wasn’t a crisis, but a concern, so Murphy made a beeline for coach Ian Stafford to figure out why his most lethal weapon was misbehaving, and although he fell a few shots shy of snapping up a spot in St Andrews on Tuesday, he saw enough in his creditable share of 17th to rekindle his confidence ahead of a big week back home.
“I had an eight on my fifth hole of the day and just put myself behind the eight-ball straight away but I honestly played great,” Murphy said.
“I hit it really good off the tee which has always been a strength of mine but I struggled a little bit recently so that’s given me a lot of confidence going into this week.
“I put in a really good day’s work with my coach, Ian and felt really good after it. I’ve been trying to stay positive. It’s easy to get down on yourself and overthink things in golf but I’ve always had so much confidence in my driving.
“I love standing up and hitting tee shots. It’s the best part of my game and always has been and thankfully it feels good there now again. Just as well as Mount Juliet is a course that requires you to drive the ball well.”
Murphy will hope to take that momentum into the first two rounds at Mount Juliet where he makes his Irish Open debut having watched along as part of the gallery last year. It’s such experiences that have amped up the now 24-year old and although he rightly refuses to put any pressure on himself, he’s relishing the chance to perform in front of sold out crowds in Kilkenny.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of,” Murphy said, who’s spending the week with his former Walker Cup teammate and local favourite, Mark Power.
“I’ve been to many Irish Opens, watched them on TV. Even last year I didn’t get in but I still came and watched as a spectator so being part of it is going to be even more special.
“I obviously don’t want to put myself under pressure but I enjoy playing in front of crowds, it’s a part of the game I find fun so looking forward to relishing that as much as I can.”
Murphy tees off the 10th hole alongside Maverick Antcliff and Kazuki Higa at 9.30 on Thursday.
- Full tee-times HERE
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