A brilliant final hole birdie cemented George Murray’s first professional victory in his homeland at the Scottish Hydro Challenge after a superb final round performance at the Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Course in Aviemore.
The 27 year old was a model of composure as he compiled an outstanding final round of five under par 66 to take the title by four shots from Sweden’s Magnus Carlsson, with England’s Lee Slattery sharing third place with Norwegian Marius Thorp on ten under.
Another Scot, Chris Doak, shared fifth place with German Christoph Günther and England’s Matt Haines.
Murray had began the final round with a three stroke lead over Carlsson and Thorp and managed to maintain a comfortable cushion between himself and the chasing pack throughout the afternoon.
After sinking a 15 foot birdie putt on the first, Murray settled into the final round perfectly. He dropped a shot on the fourth but roared ahead with a superb run of three consecutive birdies from the eighth to the tenth holes to set up his maiden win, despite late pressure from Carlsson’s back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th holes and another on the par five 17th.
Standing on the 18th tee, Murray held a two stroke advantage but he would end the tournament four clear as Carlsson could only bogey the last, giving Murray a chance to go for his 35 foot birdie attempt, which he duly accepted, much to the delight of the watching home crowd.
“It feels great to win my first tournament – doing it in Scotland, with my family and friends here supporting me just makes it all the more special,” said Murray. “I played great all week and I didn’t really feel too much pressure out there today.
“I kind of knew that Magnus was having a run but I tried not to pay too much attention to what anyone else was doing and looked after my own score.”
Murray’s first Challenge Tour victory saw beating his previous performances of second in the 2007 Lexus Open and tied second in the 2008 Vodafone Challenge saw him leap 41 places on the Rankings, from 45th to fourth.
That significant gives Murray a wonderful opportunity to win a place on The European Tour via the top 20 on the end of season Rankings.
“I think the aim now has to be to try and stay in the top five for the rest of the season. Winning will do a lot for my confidence – I have done it here against most of the best players on the Challenge Tour so there’s no reason to think that I can’t do it more often if I play to my abilities.”