John Murphy: Putting things in perspective 

John Craven

John Murphy (Photo by Oliver Hardt/Getty Images)

John Craven

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Kinsale star John Murphy ended a run of 12 missed cuts in a row at the Soudal Open a fortnight ago where he enjoyed a T28 finish. We caught up with Murphy prior to that effort for the latest edition of Irish Golfer Magazine where he highlighted what was needed to turn his fortunes around…

To say it’s been a rough start to life on the DP World Tour for John Murphy would be an understatement. From the highs of earning his playing privileges via the toughest examination in golf, to the lows of seven missed cuts on the spin, golf can be kind but so often cruel, no matter what level you’re competing at. 

It just so happened that the day I reached out for a catch up coincided with Max Kennedy capturing his first collegiate title for Louisville University at the Aggie Invitational. It was the programme’s first individual win since… you guessed it, John Murphy. 

“Oh yeah… it would’ve been actually! That’s mad… When I was there Matti Schmid won and then I won the next two. They’re still waiting for a non-Irish winner since Matti – we’ll just keep taking over!” 

It was nice to remind Murphy of the good times off the bat. I’ve often tried contacting players going through bad spells who’d rather not pick up the phone. Murphy had no such concerns. 

No stranger to adversity in golf, we’d once spoken after a missed cut at the North of Ireland, Murphy sharing the car journey home from Portrush to Kinsale with his mam, reeling after missing the cut as a full-time amateur against part-time golfers.  

At the time he questioned if he was good enough. A few weeks later he lifted the prestigious Mullingar Scratch Trophy, rode the wave back to Louisville and earned Walker Cup selection before turning pro.  

In golf, you never know what’s around the corner, and nobody epitomises that more than Murphy.  

“This is no strange feeling to me and that helps,” Murphy says of his form. 

“Unfortunately it’s part of who I’ve been as a golfer and it’s something I’m working on and need to get better at because my bad spells simply aren’t good enough. 

“I still have a lot of confidence in the fact my good golf is good enough and it’s still in there so it’s just a matter of trying to root that out for the rest of the year.” 

Rather than simply trying to raise his ceiling, Murphy is focussed on lifting his floor, striving to elevate his game to a point of competitiveness even on the bad days. 

“I need to find ways to make my bad golf that bit better so I’m able to dig out making the cut even when I’m not on form,” he says. 

“In golf, your good can come pretty quickly so it’s just about trying to make sure I’m always hanging around even when my bad golf is on display.” 

By his own admission, Murphy played an awful lot of golf last year. He teed up 34 times last season and there was no rest for the wicked with pre-Christmas jaunts to South Africa and Mauritius before more far flung stops at Ras Al Khaimah, Singapore and Thailand this term.  

He would come away from each stop empty-handed, trying to play himself into form through trial and error with little luck. That was until he decided to tee-up back on the Challenge Tour for its recent double-header in India.  

In an ideal world, Murphy’s promotion to the Main tour would’ve resigned the secondary circuit to the rear-view mirror as he forged on with his career.  

So, was it a hit to the ego going back? 

“Not really… ehh, not really,” he says, and I just about believe him.  

“In one sense I kind of enjoyed it because it allowed me to explore a few things, and it took the weight off my chest a little bit for the week. I don’t think anyone even knew I was going down there and I just went with the intention of wanting to get better.” 

On the face of it, two more missed cuts suggest that it was more of the same for Murphy, however, the man himself left Bangalore feeling much more optimistic than that. 

“I think it was the first time I’d ever performed like that and been content with the learnings and teachings coming away,” he says. “Obviously it’s really hard to see in the moment a lot of the time but there were a lot of things I liked. 

“It was actually the first time in… I can’t even tell you how long that I was using a putter that wasn’t the old putter I’d been using in a tournament. 

“I’d really struggled any time I brought a different putter to the tournament, even if I used it in the practice rounds, I just struggled to put it into play. 

“I’ve always had this mental block against it, and I felt it was a block I needed to get through. I was happy I was able to get over that hurdle and my putting is certainly coming along. 

“I’ve just got to continue working on the rest of my game now. I feel like a lot of these things have a knock on effect on each other. If one part of your game improves, I feel like every part of my game improves.  

“I feel like I made a couple of breakthroughs on that in India and I take positives away from that. There are things you can control in this game. I felt like there were some things that were somewhat out of my control for a while but I feel like I’m on top of that now.” 

Understandably, Murphy hadn’t been enjoying his golf. The game had become a chore and with extended time back home to work on everything from the mental to the physical post-India, a big focus was put on reminding himself that yes, golf might be his job now but it’s still a game he loves. 

“I want to get myself enjoying it again like I always did,” he says. 

“In the past I’ve spent a lot of time just going out with my friends at seven o’clock in the morning and playing 18, be done by 10 and have the full day to get work done if I wanted to. 

“That’s something I’m trying to get back into.” 

Talking to him, there’s certainly no sense that Murphy is feeling sorry for himself. Just two years into his pro career, he’s hit every milestone seamlessly to this point, from earning his Challenge Tour card to snatching promotion at Q-School while making his PGA Tour debut and earning a top-10 result at the Home of Golf in between. A bit of adversity never hurt anyone. Just ask Major champion Justin Rose who missed 21 cuts on the spin to start out his professional career. Murphy’s only a third of the way there! 

“At the end of the day, I’m really just trying to be as process orientated as I can,” he says. “I’m 24-year old, I’m still learning about my trade and what I do and I know it’s cliché, but I’m focussed on the process.  

“It’s so easy, especially when you’re young and naïve, to get caught up in results. You go out on tour thinking ‘I need to win this’ or ‘do this’ instead of just really trying to hone in on my processes with my team and make myself the most complete version of myself that I can.” 

Team is a constant theme when Murphy speaks. He leans on his inner circle greatly and does his best to block out the noise elsewhere. 

“I try not to take on the opinions of those outside the team,” he says. 

“I’ve always gone through phases, every year, where I’ve performed poorly. Obviously it’s not something I’m proud of but it’s just something I’ve always done and it’s something I’m working on quite a lot. 

“I think the fact that it’s this year that it’s happened, it’s exaggerated a bit because there might be a few more people following me and the scores are more easily available.  

“And then people love to have an input. To talk about what you’re doing wrong and how you can improve. I think as long as my team and I are on the same wave-length, then that’s all that matters to us at the moment.” 

It’s easy to let on-course struggles creep into everyday life but Murphy’s perspective is mightily intact. Yes, this is his livelihood, but it’s still just golf, and while the profit and loss balance sheet may be out of kilter, the DP World Tour guaranteeing funds up to $150,000 this season certainly eases the pressure on Murphy’s quest – not that he wants to rely on it. 

Instead, Murphy is rebuilding the framework around a golf game that has already proven itself capable of competing on the DP World Tour. When he shared the stage for the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links with Masters champion Danny Willett at St Andrews, the only thing that unnerved Murphy was how comfortable he felt in the final group.  

There’s no doubt that days like these lie ahead and as the DP World Tour moves back to Europe in May, Murphy expects to have more than a dozen chances to prove it. 

“I’d say I’ll be able to play 13 or 14 events for the rest of the year on Main tour,” Murphy predicts. 

“If you were to tell me when I was starting my pro career less than two years ago that I’d have 13 Main tour starts over the summer in my second year as a pro, I’d be fairly buzzing with that.  

“I still have a huge opportunity to kick on and make this season a great one so I’ve just got to keep moving forward.” 

Murphy collected a cheque worth €16,293.66 for that breakthrough week in Belgium. He returns to action at this week’s KLM Open no doubt itching for more.

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