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Friday, 19 March 2010
As one Irishman faltered, another took over at the top of the leaderboard in the Is Molas Challenge Open in Sardinia. David Higgins, the joint overnight leader, slipped to a 74, but Gary Murphy carded a 68 to take his place.
It leaves the 26-year-old from Kilkenny on 13-under-par 203, a shot ahead of Scotland's Ross Bain, and two strokes clear of Bradley Dredge of Wales, both of whom also went round in 68.
And on a crowded leaderboard, England's Grant Hamerton, who shared the overnight lead with Higgins, and Ian Poulter, Markus Brier of Austria and Italy's Roberto Zappa share fourth place on 206.
Neither Murphy nor Bain has won a Challenge Tour title but Dredge has and it was the 25-year-old Welshman who set the clubhouse target on 11 under with five birdies in his 68.
Bain, the Dubai-based Scot, reeled off 10 consecutive pars before securing his first birdie at the 394-yard 11th. But three more birdies followed in an inward 33 for his 68 and 204, 12 under.
Murphy, who has not occupied such a lofty position since the Russian Open in Moscow two years ago, has suddenly found his form after a disappointing first half of the season. Starting the day one off the lead, he gave little hint of finishing as leader as he went out in level par with two birdies and two bogeys.
But, like Bain, he showed a liking to the back nine and four birdies in six holes from the 12th saw him home in 33 to edge ahead on 13 under.
On a day when 33 of the 57 players beat par, the top three were upstaged by seven rivals including Didier de Vooght of Belgium, and English pair Shaun Webster and Matthew Blackey who all went round in best-of-the-day 66s.
But the leading honours went to Murphy. No Irishman has won on the Challenge Tour since Raymond Burns triumphed twice in 1994, so green could be the colour on Sunday.

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Tournament Leaderboard

PosPlayer NameNatHolePar
1DREDGE, BradleyWAL18-18
2BRIER, MarkusAUT18-16
T3HIGGINS, DavidIRL18-14
T3HAMERTON, GrantENG18-14
T3NUTT, JuanVEN18-14
6MURPHY, GaryIRL18-13
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