Early starts for Irish trio and OWGR Top-50 permutations in Mauritius

Ronan MacNamara
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John Murphy (Picture: Niall O'Shea)

Tom McKibbin, Gary Hurley and John Murphy are all looking to end their 2022 campaigns on a high note at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open as the DP World Tour comes to a close for the year.

This will be the fourth successive event for McKibbin and Murphy, while Hurley is looking to make it three cuts from as many events this season.

It’s been a long year for the trio which started in February for McKibbin and Murphy, while Hurley has jumped between the Alps and Challenge Tour.

McKibbin was a mainstay in the top-20 on the Challenge Tour Rankings last season and the little break between the Grand Final and the DP World Tour’s South African swing has allowed him to carry that momentum into the early part of the season.

Just a week before his 20th birthday, the Holywood native became the first Irish teenager to break into the top-300 in the world since Rory McIlroy.

McKibbin has impressed with three top-20 finishes in as many starts to his rookie season and is 27th on the Race to Dubai.

There have been flashes of brilliance in those three weeks with a hole in one at the South African Open and two hole-out eagles last week. The Newtownabbey man will be hoping to be amongst the birdies early as he tees off at 6.50 am local time.

West Waterford’s Hurley will hit the opening tee shot a half an hour earlier as he looks to bring a fantastic season to an end.

It’s been a relentless summer run for the 29-year-old who competed on the Alps Tour for the 2022 season and thanks to victory at the Alps de Andalucia, T2 at the Roma Alps Open and 3rd at the Castelconturbia Alps Open he secured his Challenge Tour card for 2023, following a 5th place finish on the year long Order of Merit.

However, Hurley has managed to skip a level by continuing his momentum to the marathon DP World Tour Q-School where he comfortably earned his card for the 2023 season for the first time.

Successive top-35 finishes has seen him rise to a career-high 520th in the world as the 2015 Walker Cupper from Ireland’s ‘famous five’ looks to deliver on his potential.

Perhaps Hurley can inspire his compatriot Murphy who tees off in the group behind him on Thursday morning as he looks to make his first cut at the fourth attempt.

There has been plenty of good golf from the Kinsale native but some costly errors have meant his rookie season is yet to take flight.

Murphy has had as long a year as anyone which started on the PGA Tour and will finish in Mauritius. The 24-year-old earned his DP World Tour card at the eleventh hour at Q-School and from there he was thrust into the action in South Africa.

It’s been tough to get practice in but no doubt it has been a learning experience so far and the 2021 Walker Cup star will be looking to end a progressive year on a high and get to work in January before returning to the tour in February.

As mentioned, it is the last event of the year which means it’s last chance saloon for Dean Burmester to secure a maiden invite to The Masters at Augusta National.

The springbok will be looking to dislodge fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen who left the door ajar at the top-50 bubble after a 72nd hole bogey in Leopard Creek last week.

Burmester must win to crack the top-50 and leapfrog 2010 Open champion Oosthuizen who would fall to 51st having started the year at 21st before defecting to LIV Golf.

Burmester is the highest ranked player in the field while Belgium’s Thomas Detry also provides some star quality.

The European Ryder Cup hopeful is still searching for a maiden DP World Tour win having impressed on the PGA Tour in the off season.

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