Course management was key for John Murphy on day two of the ISPS HANDA World Invitational as a strong finish kept him in the mix heading into the weekend in Co Antrim.
The Kinsale man birdied two of his last three holes on his way to a one-under 69 at Massereene which, added to his 67 on day one at Galgorm, has him hanging around the top-10 at four-under-par after the early wave of starters completed their second rounds.
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 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 and Sweden’s Felix Palson at the halfway stage of the second round.
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. See if you can perform under pressure is a really good feeling.”
Despite a three-over 73 at Galgorm, David Carey looks to have done enough to get himself in for the third round at level-par, with Paul Dunne likely to join him after a 72 at Massereene left him on the same score.
Tom McKibbin has a nervy wait, however, as he also carded a 72 at Massereene and at one-over he is right on the cut line, which looks set to fluctuate between level and one-over.
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 David Higgins and Tim Rice at five-over after rounds of 72 and 73 respectively at Galgorm.
A disappointing 77 at Galgorm means Conor Purcell won’t be sticking around at seven-over, neither will Dermot McElroy, who finished eight-over after a 71 at Galgorm and Robert Brazill, who shot an 81 at Galgorm to finish 19-over.