2005 World Champion Shaun Murphy will temporarily swap the baize for the links later this month, as he launches an ambitious bid to qualify for golf’s 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
In his spare time, Murphy has managed to obtain a scratch golf handicap. That means he is eligible to enter qualifying for this year’s Open Championship as an amateur. The 36-year-old will tee it up in the regional event at County Louth on June 24th.
We caught up with Triple Crown winner Murphy, to look ahead to his debut in one of golf’s greatest tournaments…
Shaun, what is it that made you want to try your hand at Open Championship qualifying?
“I caddied for one of my friends, Graham Neville, a few years ago at Open qualifying. He got to the final stages and was playing in the group ahead of former US Open winner Michael Campbell. That was a fantastic experience. I thought it would be nice to have a go myself, just to say I had played in it. It is very hard to maintain a scratch handicap whilst having a full time snooker career, a young family and all the rest of it. I won’t be off scratch for much longer so I thought I should take my opportunity while I am still eligible.”
What do you think your chances of progressing are?
“It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that I could go out there and shoot level par and get through to the final stage of qualifying. That would be extremely unlikely, but I have done it before. My best round of golf is four under par.
“If I even managed to progress to the next stage it would be crazy really. There are some amazing players in those final qualifiers and I would feel like a bit of an imposter, but I’m only 18 holes away. It is all a bit tongue in cheek and a bit of a laugh, but this will be a fantastic experience. I think the one thing I do have going for me is that I already have a full time job. Golf isn’t my livelihood. Relative to the other players I will be playing against, it doesn’t really matter to me if I win or lose. I won’t be under the pressure they are under. Most of them are trying to win the Open Championship. I am just trying to have a good day out. I could knock it round in anything from 68 to 108!”
Do you think your experience of climbing the mountain in snooker and becoming a World Champion will help you out at all?
“My experiences on the snooker tour certainly give me a bit of an inside track of what goes on inside these player’s minds when they are walking down the final fairway of a major tournament. In some ways, I would say that the mental side of snooker is more difficult. We don’t have a caddy out there with us. When you are in a deciding frame at Alexandra Palace, you are out there on your own. There is nobody to whisper sweet nothings in your ear, snooker is truly a single person sport. I know that my mentality won’t be what lets me down, it will be my lack of ability!”
Was there ever any point where you had to make a decision between pursuing snooker or golf for your career?
“Well there was never a career crossover point as such, but once I turned 17 and started driving it did become all too easy for me to sneak off to the golf course. There was a bit of an emergency meeting called with my sponsors, friends and family. I was playing far too much golf and it definitely cost me a few results. I obviously managed to reel things in after that.”
Can you see many technical similarities between golf and snooker?
“There are some quite staggering similarities. Even to the point that when I was a young boy growing up there were some golf training techniques that I brought into my snooker, things like timing exercises and drills. The fact that it is a still ball game, you have to impart the spin and you have to move the ball. Those parts are identical. Most snooker players make good putters as well. We are used to looking at a perfectly flat six by 12 foot area of green baize. When it comes to a putting green, any breaks or variations tend to stick out like a sore thumb.”
How much are you looking forward to teeing off at County Louth in two weeks’ time?
“Well the Open Championship is one of those perennials. Much like the World Snooker Championship, when it is on that is it and you get totally consumed by it. I love everything about it, the fact that it is played on links courses make it even more special as well. Links golf is the original test and challenge. I can’t wait to get out there.”