McGinley to the fore as Murphy sparkles

THE holder and hot favourite Paul McGinley has cruised into the lead at the halfway stage of the Smurfit IPGA Championship at Adare Manor.

But he is still a long way from clinching the title for a fourth time.

McGinley yesterday benefited from the much improved afternoon weather to compile a tidy 68 to finish five under par and one ahead of Gary Murphy who had battled through heavy rain in the morning to return a magnificent course record of 66.

Murphy is one off the pace on four under, a stroke ahead of first round leader David Higgins, who took 73 yesterday, and former British Amateur champion Michael Hoey who, like the Waterville golfer, is showing a welcome return to form.

Accordingly, it is probably fair to say that the highest ranked players in the field occupy the top four spots, although Brendan McGovern and John Dwyer on one under may have something to say about that by the close of proceedings tomorrow.

McGinley was quick to admit the had been favoured by the best of the weather and praised Murphy’s 66 as, “a superb effort in the circumstances. Generally I’m happy with my round but feel I must be tidier and putt better through the weekend if I’m to stay out in front. Gary, Michael Hoey and David Higgins can all play a bit and I’m expecting others to come through so I’ve got to do a little better.”

McGinley shot six birdies and two bogeys in his 68, although it could have been better, for he missed a few gilt-edged chances for further gains, most notably at the long ninth where he chipped to just over a yard but missed the putt.

The 30-year-old Murphy has established himself on the European Tour after a great run of results in mid-season, but has also set himself a lot of targets for the remainder of the year and chief among them is to join the many luminaries who have captured the national championship since it was first contested in 1907.

He has certainly given himself every opportunity of becoming the fifth player to complete the Irish Amateur Close-IPGA Championship double with yesterday’s noble performance.

He shot seven birdies and just one bogey on his way to beating the previous mark of 68 set over the previous couple of days by Finian Dwyer, Brendan McGovern and David Higgins. His 66 over a course as difficult as the Robert Trent Jones-designed Adare layout was a spectacular effort.

He played all but his final hole in heavy rain and gave an exemplary display of ball striking to reduce the damage caused by an indifferent two over 74 on Thursday when he began his round with three straight bogeys.

Murphy started at the 10th with a 30-footer for the first of the birdies and made further gains at the long 12th (six foot putt), 17th (20-footer) and 18th (pitch and putt having laid up short of the River Maigue).

The one blemish came at the 13th where he missed the green with his approach. He was even more impressive over his second nine, with further birdies following at the first (20 feet), third (three-footer) and long ninth, where he pitched and putted for a four.

“It was a huge disappointment for me to miss the cut last week in the BMW International in Munich,” said Murphy. “That could cost me dearly for I’m not sure yet of getting into the German Masters in two weeks time or the Dunhill Links at the end of the month. If I miss out on those two events, then I could be overtaken for a place in the season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama and that’s a big aim right now.

“My timing was off in Munich and again on Thursday and even today I didn’t hit it as well as I would have liked,” admitted Murphy.

“I used the driver most of the time out there and while it mightn’t look pretty, it worked very nicely for me today.

“I’m a lot more patient on the course. The levels are always changing. You’re trying to keep your card, you’re trying to win a tournament, you’re trying to get into the Volvo Masters, you’re trying to win a major or whatever, there’s always something higher to aim at. You can’t rest on your laurels.

“I want to win golf tournaments. This is not a European Tour event but it’s a big tournament and I want my name on the trophy.”

Murphy has never won al tournament in his eight years as a professional although he did lead the Asian Tour School in 1997.

Yesterday’s sparkling round indicates he can make the breakthrough this weekend although he is in no doubt as to the quality of those close to or at the top of the leaderboard.

The cut came on 155, 11 over par, with 55 golfers set to face the starter through the final two rounds.

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