By John Manley
The European Tour arrives at Fota Island in Cork this week for the Murphy’s Irish Open, but without Ireland’s Gary Murphy in the lineup. The Kilkenny man needed to procure a top 10 finish in the Great North Open at Slaley Hall in Hexham, England, to qualify for his national open. He was well along to making his goal, when, after 54 holes, he was but two strokes off the lead. A disastrous final round reversed his fortunes, however.
Murphy took a nine at the eighth hole en route to a six-over-par 78 and a share of 18th place. He lost two balls off the tee and sent another shot into a hazard. Had he converted birdie putts at the last two holes, he would have moved far enough up the board to qualify for this week, but both were off. His final score was 290 (72-69-71-78).
Des Smyth and Peter Lawrie were the only two other Irish golfers to make the cut. Smyth tied for 35th place with his 294 (69-76-73-76), with Lawrie back in 55th place at 298 (71-73-79-75). Miles Tunnicliff won the tournament by four strokes with his 279.
The Great North Open was notable as Gr’me McDowell’s professional debut. The Portrush resident fell prey to jitters on Thursday, when he shot 77. He recovered with 72 on Friday, but needed 147 to clear the cutline. Sharing his misfortune were Philip Walton, 149 (74-75), Eamonn Darcy, 150 (73-77), and David Higgins, 152 (79-73).
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Christy O’Connor Jr. salvaged some pride with a final round 68 in the Greater Baltimore Classic. He began the tournament with rounds of 77 and 73. His final 218 placed him in a tie for 51st place, good for earnings of $3,625. J.C. Snead’s 203 won the event, which was played at the Hayfields Country Club in Hunt Valley, Md.
The year isn’t getting any younger and neither Keith Nolan nor John Kernohan is on the verge of redeeming their woeful play thus far in 2002. They both missed the cut at the Lake Erie Charity Classic at the Peek’n Peak Resort in Findley, Lake, N.Y. Nolan carded 146 (70-76) for 36 holes, while Kernohan came in with 154 (77-77). A score of 143 or better was needed to advance.