‘My mind was in places it shouldn’t have been’ – Murphy enjoying golf again

Ronan MacNamara

John Murphy (Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

John Murphy isn’t the first young professional to succumb to the stresses and strains of tour life and he won’t be the last.

A starring role for GB&I in the 2021 Walker Cup and a meteoric rise to the DP World Tour, Murphy only knew success for two years so to find himself in a mental slump so early into his burgeoning career prompted him to change his outlook on the game. After a summer break to take stock and enjoy life he has returned to the tour in a healthy state of mind and ready to enjoy his golfing journey.

“Yeah I’m enjoying my golf again absolutely, came back at Galgorm was rusty, wasn’t playing well, but the last couple of weeks I’ve played really nicely, not scored particularly well but hitting the ball as good as I ever have and that’s a huge positive,” smiles Murphy speaking to IrishGolfer.ie ahead of the Horizon Irish Open at the K Club.


“I am enjoying the direction I am heading in. It’s a long curve and it’s not a straight line in this career that we have so it’s about making the most out of the troughs as well as the peaks.”

Golfers are so obsessed with keeping the ball straight that they can forget to keep their mind on plane. Murphy announced in July that he was taking a step back from golf feeling it had become more of a job rather than a passion as he struggled to find his way on the DP World Tour, missing twelve successive cuts to start the year.

The Kinsale man has emerged from the wilderness with a renewed and fresh attitude. Having put so much expectation on himself to get to the top as quickly as possible, he realises that when it comes to golf, slow and steady wins the race.

“I was way too results orientated subconsciously this year there were a lot of times where I probably didn’t notice my mind wandering into a place where it shouldn’t have been,” he explains. “I was thinking if I can do this in this event and finish here in this event I can get loads of points opposed to letting it happen which I feel like I have done really well the last two weeks.  

I think I was just so indulged in results and just trying to, trying to suppose, just get the best out of my golf each week, which is probably natural instinct and, you know, as much as it feels like the right thing to do, it’s really not, you know, I put a lot of pressure myself. I felt a lot of pressure coming from a lot of angles that I was probably making up in my own head and that obviously didn’t  help and, you know, when it came to, when it came to the heat of the moment, I just wasn’t enjoying it, wasn’t enjoying the pressures that I have always enjoyed.

“The main thing isn’t to get caught up in results and just let it happen because it’s going to be a long career in this game that we play so just let it happen don’t be forcing it in a hurry because there really is no hurry right now. Just keep enjoying my golf as much as I can and see where it takes me, if I can just show up every week and do my best and enjoy it then there will be good weeks and there will obviously be weeks where you have to learn from it and get better from.”

It’s hard to not be in good form this week at the Horizon Irish Open, glorious sunshine, mid-20 temperatures and a buzzing excitement around the K Club. Murphy is always one of the nicer heads around the practice area but there is an air of charisma that has returned to the Cork man that if he told you the Rebel county was the real capital you might just believe him.

Back-to-back cuts made in Czech Republic and Switzerland with good second round finishes to boot, Murphy is buoyed by his progress and hopes to keep right on this week.

“You know, I always loved coming down the stretch and tournament. So I always loved when, when I had that extra bit of heat in the line and then I think, this year I just stopped enjoying that element of it. Certainly the last few weeks, last week in particular, I was kind of hovering about the cut line with a few uncomfortable holes coming in and played some really good golf on the way in, same the week before and that felt really nice to be able to do that and to be able to enjoy that and, you know, going down the stretch with Shane enjoying that process as opposed to kind of hearing it and like Irish Open this week, weather is unreal, golf course is incredible.”

The 25-year-old needed this sense of perspective, to realise his career as a touring professional is still in its infancy and he is now joined by former Wake Forest and Walker Cup teammates Alex Fitzpatrick and Mark Power. Playing in just his second Irish Open has allowed him to take stock on his career to date.

“Yeah, 100% you know, this is it, last year was my first Irish Open, I still remember coming to all these and, and wherever they were before I went as far as, Fota Island, Portrush for an Irish Open and just watching kind of the same players that are here now. I remember watching Rory when he was bursting onto the scene at an Irish Open and he’s here playing which is pretty cool, like having a chat with him in the locker room and stuff and just realizing how far I’ve come since been able to watch it as a kid. 

“I mean, it’s a really good experience, but at the same time I’m here to try and do the best I can and see where that takes me.”

Getting a haircut can often be a daunting experience for those who are perhaps too awkward for barber talk. However, there’s clipping away in silence and there’s rocking a fresh fade while chatting to Rory McIlroy.

“We just talked about golf. I played in Adare with Sean O’Flaherty (McIlroy’s manager) before and in Seminole. So I know Sean, I played a little bit with his dad Jerry, we were just chatting really just, you know, in the locker room. My barber was there for the week so it was a bit of a strange dynamic with me, my barber and Rory McIlroy which I never thought would happen,” Murphy laughs.

“It was just cool to catch up and to have a chat and to be in his presence, I guess because obviously, you know, he’s done a lot for the game. He’s done a lot for Irish golf to be here competing with him, I think it is actually the first tournament that is a world ranking event that I’ve played in the same field, so looking forward to teeing it up against him this week.”

Murphy burst onto the scene after the 2021 Walker Cup in Seminole with a top-10 at the Alfred Dunhill Links that October before playing well enough to earn Challenge Tour status for 2022. A full status on Europe’s second tier saw him miss out on promotion to the DP World Tour last autumn before he rebounded at Q-School in November to earn a card on Europe’s top-tier.

From there, he jumped straight into the early events in South Africa and Mauritius and carried on. Essentially he had no break for the best part of two years before stepping away in July. He was, as golfers would put it, ‘golfed out.’

It has proven to be a break he had to take and a lesson he had to learn. He needed to rest and do things people in their mid-20s do and have some fun and he looks to have come out on the other side all the better for it.

“When I decided to pull out of the two events in America and stuff and when I decided to take a break, it was only kind of then it dawned on me that since I played the Walker Cup, which is about two and a half years ago I haven’t had a break, I haven’t stopped. 

“I’ve been very fortunate in the sense that, you know, a lot of people struggle early in their career. But the first two years of my career, I was very fortunate where there was no real roadblock. 

“I played, Challenge Tour invites straight away after I turned pro, got a Challenge Tour card, played Challenge for that year, played well in the Challenge Tour, got a European Tour card and then went straight into the European Tour. 

“So there really was no point where I stopped over those two years and even my breaks consisted of golf so to be able to just stop for a little bit and to be able to just do things that I always used to do, with my friends and with my family and just enjoy a bit of time off is really nice and certainly a big learning curve there to just remind myself to have that space to do that because it can work out in the long run.”

Murphy tees off on Thursday in the opening three-ball alongside Daniel Van Tonder and Tapio Pulkkanen eager to show the home crowd exactly what he is capable of.

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