Job done for the Irish as Freiburghaus wins English Trophy thriller

Ronan MacNamara

John Murphy (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Tom McKibbin, John Murphy and Conor Purcell each ticked their necessary boxes as far as their Challenge Tour seasons go at the final regular event of the season in the English Trophy at Frilford Heath Golf Club. 

McKibbin fired nine birdies in a superb final round of 65 to finish in a share of fourth place on eighteen-under which maintained his DP World Tour promotion push. 

The Holywood teenager will head into next month’s Road to Mallorca Grand Final in 15th place with the top-20 earning DP World Tour cards. 

The 19-year-old teed off a projected 16th in the rankings so his final round surge could prove pivotal in November. 

Whatever happens it’s been a great maiden season as a full tour professional for McKibbin who makes the limited 45-man field for the first time. 

“I’m really looking forward to it. It will be my first limited field event where there are only 45 guys so I’m really looking forward to it, it should be nice and a really good week.”  

“I’ll chill out for a few days and then get right back at it and tidy up a few things. This is my fifth week in a row so I haven’t had much opportunity for practice of sorts, so a few things are a little untidy.” 

Meanwhile Conor Purcell and John Murphy finished alongside each other in 35th place on twelve-under-par but Murphy’s season will go on as he secured 42nd place on the Road to Mallorca despite a one-over 73. 

Purcell began his season without any status but started his year well with top-10 finishes on the Alps Tour and has taken advantage of his Challenge Tour invites to secure a card for next season. 

The Portmarnock man managed to climb to 64th in the Road to Mallorca rankings entering the week and he stayed there with four under par rounds. 

The top-70 at season’s end enjoy Challenge Tour status for next year meaning Derry’s Ruaidhri McGee will earn a card for next term. 

Having only returned to Europe’s second tier this summer on invites the Rosapenna man had the chance to advance to the Grand Final but missed the halfway cut this week. 

Away from the Irish there was a dramatic race for the win between Switzerland’s Jeremy Freiburghaus and overnight leader Maximilian Schmitt. 

The duo took part in an epic duel on the final day as Freiburghaus overturned a two-stroke deficit with a sublime six under par 66 to tie on 22 under par after 72 holes, before triumphing in the play-off to move to the top of the Rankings ahead of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A. 

The playoff was high drama as Freiburghaus hit his tee shot behind the wall near the green before Schmitt saw his drive bounce into the car park and amazingly onto the roof of the clubhouse. 

What a time to have to reload. 

A par at the playoff hole was enough to secure the 26-year-old his first Challenge Tour win and ascend to the summit of the Road to Mallorca Rankings. 

“I’ve been waiting for this moment all year and to have it happen on the very last tournament is pretty special,” he said.  

“It’s very big. Getting a win was the main goal this year, came up short twice, but I think that really helped me to stay patient and humble for the win and here we are.  

“My goal was to finish up there and I didn’t think about finishing first but I’m really happy.”  

Freiburghaus, from Switzerland, dropped only one shot in his final round – at the par three ninth – and credited an improvement in his putting for reaching the summit, before sticking to his strategy in the play-off.  

“I putted really well today,” he said. “I’ve been struggling a bit the past few days and I didn’t make many mistakes off the tee, that really helps makes the game much more relaxed. Coming in clutch on the back nine was awesome.  

“I could’ve been a little bit more aggressive but I hit the three wood before and I thought if I catch it really well, I might be able to get on. I wanted to take the out of bounds out of play so I think, strategy-wise, it worked out well in the end.  

“I wasn’t really nervous because in a play-off, you’ve just got to win. Worst case you’re going to finish second, so you’ve got to go all-in.” 

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