The pro golf ranks have no fear for Cork man John Murphy

Build a prototype of a complete golfer and John Murphy will probably fit most parts. Young, fit and strong. Check! Good driver. Check! Good putter. Check! Iron game. Check! Solid corner play. Check! Oh, and with his red hair, neatly shaved on the sides and with neat curls on top, the man from Cork stands out from the crowd, which isn’t a bad thing in the world of professional golf.

This week, Murphy is in Pebble Beach on the California coast for the AT&T Pro-Am for a first appearance on the PGA Tour – playing at the invitation of a sponsor in the 7.75 million euro tournament – and , for a player who turned professional less than a year ago, after a stellar amateur career, which included a Walker Cup appearance as well as international honors for Ireland, as well as securing a a graduate from the University of Louisville with impressive academic and playing resumes, it’s fair to say he started running in the transition from amateur to professional.

Murphy, remember, had an impact on tour invitations last season, a top 10 in the Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour and, then, a third place in the Emporda Challenge which earned a card on the Challenge Tour for 2022, a circuit that will be his main focus in his bid to secure a full DP World Tour card for next season.

Invitations like the one to Pebble Beach — and also the Byron Nelson in May — are in bonus territory. But there is no inferiority complex. Murphy is aware more than anyone that opportunities, when they arise, are there to be taken and his preparation for this week’s tournament involved a pre-visit to play Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula (the three courses used in the tournament) while also playing at the Olympic club.

“So much can change in a week, you saw last year at Dunhill I was tagged in some things saying if I finished in the top four or five I would get a full circuit card I just try to take each tournament as I go, which is important at this stage because I don’t like to be too caught up in the whole ranking until the end of the season.

Murphy – an avid pitcher in his youth before golf became his sporting direction of choice – is in a comfort zone, relishing the journey ahead: “Growing up, you hear how good the guys on tour are and you watch TV every week and you see hit after hit because they obviously show the highlights. I think you’re getting a bit of the wrong impression of what professional golf is all about. People think professional golfers don’t hit bad shots, they’re perfect.

“But I’m lucky to have played with some of the best players last year. [in the Dunhill Links] and I realized that it’s not about hitting good shot after good shot, it’s also about whether you can hit fewer bad shots on tour; so it comforted me to know that, certainly when I was playing with them, I didn’t feel like I was that far behind at all. And the gaps are very minimal at this point, so it’s just about trying to close those gaps in any way possible, that’s what it’s all about.

Sharpening of all tools

With coach Ian Stafford in California with him for this week’s tournaments, Murphy prepared diligently and determinedly: “I don’t think my game has any particular weakness. But I also feel like every aspect could get a little stronger, so it’s just a matter of sharpening all the tools, to get everything as sharp as possible.

“I noticed that all the best players seemed to be so orderly with no real gaffes or slack in their game. They were all very dead from the start and I think that’s certainly an unreal aspect of golf now, how you can hit it straight off the tee because everyone talks about distance and how far all the good guys hit it, but they also hit it straight in. I would be very confident in my ability to drive the golf ball. I win shots off the tee in the vast majority of rounds I play. If I can get every other aspect of my game as good as my driving, I’ll be fine.”

  • John Murphy was speaking at the launch of Golf Ireland’s new five-year strategic plan titled ‘Golf For Everyone’.

Michael C. Ford