Virtual rounds help John Murphy win St Andrews Links Trophy

John Murphy with the St Andrews Links Trophy after beating Jannik de Bruyn in a play-off at the Old Course. Picture: St Andrews Links Trust
John Murphy with the St Andrews Links Trophy after beating Jannik de Bruyn in a play-off at the Old Course. Picture: St Andrews Links Trust
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Irishman John Murphy learned his way around the Old Course on a Playstation and used that knowledge to good effect to land the biggest win of his career by claiming the St Andrews Links Trophy in a play-off with German left-hander Jannik de Bruyn.

Murphy, who turns 20 on Tuesday, got up and down from the Road Hole bunker to save par at the penultimate hole to finish alongside clubhouse leader de Bruyn on nine-under before holing a 25-foot birdie putt at the first extra hole, where his opponent missed from six feet.

“I hadn’t holed a putt all day, so I just thought this would be a good time,” said a beaming Murphy after becoming the third Irish player to claim this prestigious prize after Alan Dunbar (2009) and Conor O’Rourke (2016). “I hit one of the best putts of my life and it dropped in the front just like I wanted it.”

Murphy, a Kinsale member, had started the final round tied with Canadian Joey Savoie and was one-over for that circuit, having made back-to-birdies at the third and fourth before dropping a shot at the 13th, when he made that crucial par at the 17th. “When I was in the Road Hole bunker, I was just thinking, make bogey and birdie the last to get a play-off,” he admitted. “But I hit a perfect bunker shot. It landed on a dime and went down to eight feet and made a great putt there.”

Asked what winning at the home of golf meant to him, Murphy replied. “I’m overwhelmed. I still remember playing this course on the Playstation as a kid and I remember some of the holes from that. It’s just overwhelming, it’s incredible.

“I’ve won some youths and boys tournaments around Ireland, but this is by far my biggest win. I wasn’t on the six-man Irish team for this event, but I’m on the national panel and got funded to come over here, the GUI are great for funding us.” As the play-off was taking place, Murphy’s caddie was already en route to Stranraer to catch a ferry as he’s off to the US Open this week. “I’m meant to be getting a ferry at 11, but my caddie’s away so I’m not getting that ferry,” he said. “I’ll get a flight home with the boys tomorrow. I had Robin Dawson on my bag for the play-off and he’s won it all, he’s very experienced. He kept my relaxed and told me to slow down.”

Bidding to become the first German to win the event, de Bruyn had closed with a bogey-free 68, starting birdie-birdie then making back-to-back gains at the 13th and 14th.

Christo Lamprecht was also on course to be involved in the play-off until a triple-bogey 7 at the Road Hole dropped him back to six-under as he attempted to add to triumphs in both the South African Amateur and East of Ireland Championships earlier this year,.

“It was just a little ooooopsy!” said the giant South African after having to settle for a share of eighth spot when he’d been tied for the lead with two holes to play. “I had a putt that was tight to the bunker and ended up in the bunker then left in the bunker. I then got it out and just missed the putt.

“It’s one of the toughest holes I’ve played in a long time and our coach from the Golf RSA squad said as I came off the green that many legends of golf have come a cropper after hitting it in that bunker. But it was a really good day out there. I really played well and scrambled well. It’s just that one hole that has ended up costing me.”

Kilmarnock Barassie’s Euan Walker finished top Scot in joint-11th on four-under, one ahead of Nairn’s Sandy Scott, who had moved to within a shot of the lead following a best-of-the-day 66 in the third round before undoing that good work with a closing 76.