Murphy out to break new ground

After being laid-up in bed earlier this week with back spasms, Mark Murphy is now boldly targeting success in this week’s Hassan II Trophy in Agadir.

Murphy — celebrating his 34th birthday today, tees off in the very last group on the ultra-exclusive King of Morocco owned Royal course within the Palace grounds in the southern Moroccan city.

And the Waterville-born golfer has paid a £2,000 ‘Affiliate Membership’ fee that means any money he earns in the €1.5m event counts towards his Euro Tour card.

However if he should win the Race to Dubai event, then he will earn a two-year exemption till the end of 2014.

“Winning the ‘Big Break’ on the Golf Channel and getting into this event in Morocco and also the Irish Open has given me a resurgence to go back playing again,” he said.

“So right now I have Morocco, Royal Portrush and hopefully some more starts in the States when I get back to the family home in New Orleans.

“Before the ‘Big Break’ success it’s fair to say I was just trying to scratch out a living all around the world and now my life seems to be settling down.”

However Murphy was not as bubbly on Tuesday when he could barely swing a golf club as he endured a bout of back spasms.

Fortunately, he has access to the European Tour physio staff and after playing a practice round with Ballyclare’s Gareth Maybin on the eve of the event, he was heading straight for the fitness trailer.

“I just couldn’t move at all earlier this week so I am lucky the Tour’s fitness staff are here this week as they’ve been able to sort me out,” he said.

Murphy’s ‘Big Break’ success was worth $50,000 cash along with a $10,000 Adams Golf endorsement contract as well as $10,000 cash, a $10,000 shopping spree session to Dick’s Sporting Goods and $10,000 worth of travel on United Airlines.

His $90,000 windfall equates to just $16,000 shy of the second place prize money on offer this week.

“The cash I earned in winning the ‘Big Break’ will allow me to try and play more pro tour golf and if I can’t qualify for the PGA or Nationwide events then I’m prepared to give anything a go,” he said.

Meanwhile Damien McGrane hopes the putter which he used to claim the 2008 China Open can help him repeat the feat in Agadir.

McGrane is among seven Irish contesting the event on the course laid out within the fortress-like grounds of the Royal Palace.

Security is at a premium with European Tour staff politely instructed not to point any cameras in the direction of the Palace.

Sky Sports is covering the event and they are also under instructions, as they were at Abu Dhabi with the course located next to a United Arab Emirates Air Force enclosure, to avoid showing the Palace.

The only concern for McGrane, should he capture the €1.5m event, is how he’ll bring home the ceremonial winner’s sword presented by the King’s brother, His Highness Prince Moulay Rachid — who is also President of the Hassan II Trophy Association.

This week will be McGrane’s first when he can put into full effect a new arrangement with TaylorMade and the first time in his career the Kell’s golfer can call himself a ‘staff’ player.

“I’ve had no problems adjusting to all the new equipment in my bag so it’s all been very good,” he said.


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