John Murphy will head into the weekend at the ISPS HANDA World Invitational just inside the top-10 on the leaderboard despite needing to say switched on mentally for the entirety of his second round at Massereene.
The Kinsale man birdied two of his last three holes on his way to a one-under 69 at the Co Antrim course which, added to his 67 on day one at Galgorm Castle, has him in a tie for ninth at four-under-par at the midway stage.
He’s not out of the running for potentially mounting a challenge over the weekend, either, just five shots back of leader Ewen Ferguson, who followed his course-record 61 at Galgorm on Thursday with a level-par 70 at Massereene on day two.
But Murphy – who arrived in Northern Ireland having carded back-to-back third-placed finishes on the Challenge Tour – was just happy to keep himself up near the top of the standings heading into the weekend after a day where he concedes he was a long way off his best at Massereene.
“It was pretty tricky out there, to be honest. Didn’t play well at all today, so nice to get it around in one-under. I think myself and my caddie did a pretty good job managing the game today. Going to go get some practice in and get ready to go tomorrow,” said the 24-year-old.
“I made a couple of frustrating bogeys there around the middle of my back nine. But nice to knock in a couple on the way in and put myself in a good position going into tomorrow.”
It was always going to be a tough ask for Ferguson to back up his incredible nine-under opening round and so it proved, the Scotsman only moving up to 10-under once in his round as he mixed three birdies and three bogeys at Massereene.
That leaves the one-time DP World Tour winner – who, ironically, is ranked 211th in the world, exactly the same as women’s leader Amanda Doherty – one shot ahead of Spain’s Borja Virto going into Saturday’s third round, with Sweden’s Felix Palson and Silver Medal winning amateur Filippo Celli tied for third at seven-under.
Despite the nine-shot difference between round one and round two, Ferguson was not worried about how he performed, instead believing he just didn’t get the bounces he did at Galgorm on Thursday.
“Still playing nicely but I had a few more bad breaks today and missed a couple of the putts that I’ve kind of been making yesterday to keep my round going. Good putts, but just kind of lipping out, and yesterday they were kind of lipping in,” said Ferguson.
“You walk onto the next tee when they lip in, you feel amazing. When you walk on the next tee and they lip out you feel a bit flatter. But it was still a good day overall.
“I’m just having fun and trying to get myself in contention. I think that’s why we all practice. Being in contention is great fun. Seeing if you can perform under pressure is a really good feeling.”
Despite a three-over 73 at Galgorm, David Carey did enough to get himself in for the third round at level-par, with Paul Dunne joining him after a 72 at Massereene left him on the same score, and Tom McKibbin and Gary Hurley survived nervy waits as rounds of 72 and 71 respectively, both at Massereene, saw them finish right on the cut line at one-over.
But beyond that there was little to shout about for the local players, Tulfarris touring pro Simon Thornton coming close to joining them in the third round draw but falling three shots short at four-over after a one-over 71 at Massereene.
Amateur Jack Hearn was the best of the bunch with a one-under 69 at Galgorm but he will miss the cut at four-over, as will Ardglass’ Cormac Sharvin who posted a one-over 71 at Massereene to finish on the same score.
Also missing the weekend are David Higgins and Tim Rice at five-over after rounds of 72 and 73 respectively at Galgorm, Niall Kearney as a 73 at the same course dropped him to six-over, while a disappointing 77 at Galgorm means Conor Purcell won’t be sticking around at seven-over, either.
The Ulster pair of Dermot McElroy and amateur Josh Hill both finished eight-over after a 71 and 73 at Galgorm and Massereene respectively, with Robert Brazill shooting an 81 at Galgorm to finish 19-over.