Murphy ready to join the race

Gary Murphy wants to join Damien McGrane (left) as a tour winner this seasonGary Murphy is determined to chuck his journeyman tag this season and get moving in the Race to Dubai.

The Kilkenny man, 36, is still looking for his first victory as he tees it up in his 218th European Tour event at the Qatar Masters.

But inspired by Padraig Harrington’s brilliance and with the support of his Irish tour pals he believes he can finally get that winning habit this season.

Feeling good getting a few tips from pal Damien McGrane in Doha yesterday, Murphy said: "The goal is always that first win and I've also set myself a second goal this year and that's to finish in the top-50 on the Race to Dubai money list.

"One takes care of the other but I want to be back in Dubai at the end of the year for the Dubai World Championship and that's a goal this year for everybody.

"Generally I just want to keep on improving and the more I keep on improving, the better I am going to do."

Regarded as a brilliant ball-striker with a sometimes shaky short game, Murphy has still managed to rack up close to €2m in prize money since he earned his card in 2000.

But he was a forgotten man last season as his pals McGrane and Peter Lawrie grabbed their first tour wins in an unbelievable season for Irish golf and he reckons it's time he stood up to the plate.

He said: “Irish golf is booming at the moment. You've got Padraig leading the way and then there's Graeme playing in the Ryder Cup, Darren winning twice last year.  Peter and Damien also won last year and Rory's the new boy wonder.

"You also have Gareth Maybin who was a horse shoe putt away from winning in South Africa, Michael Hoey had a good week last week and Jonathan Caldwell now has his card.

"There's 11 Irish guys on the Tour now and that speaks volumes for the state of Irish golf and really you can trace that back to what Padraig's doing for the game.  We really all seem to be feeding off his success."

Backed by Oceanico Developments and managed by former tour star Gary Evans, he decided in Portugal last year that he will swap quantity for quality in 2009 by playing fewer events so that he turns up feeling 100 percent ready to compete every week.

But he’s also grateful that his fellow tour pros have taken time out to help him with his game over the past few seasons, when he has been forced to dig deep to keep his card.

He explained: "It's the great part of this game that those who you compete against also want to see you get better and besides the Irish guys are always helping each other.

"Darren gave me a lot of help at the end of last season and besides we all want each other to do well in this game, and you want to win every week yourself but that's just impossible.

"In previous years I've played for the sake of playing whereas this year it will be a case of quality rather than quantity and that's something Gary and I discussed in Portugal.

"So I am going to try and have more faith in playing less tournaments rather than turning up to events tired.”

Murphy threatened to make the breakthrough at Adare Manor last year when he led the Irish Open with 12 holes to play but finished up tied for third.

But while his performance equalled his previous finish in the Russian Open, he’s determined to join the tournament winners’ party in 2009.

After a lesson with coach Claude Harmon in Dubai, Murphy showed some form in his first outing of the year when he closed with a 66 to tie for 20th in the Abu Dhabi Championship last weekend.

And he feels ready to put in another solid performance in Doha against a star-studded field that features 18 of the world’s top 50, including Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Adam Scott and US Ryder Cup star Boo Weekley.

He said: “It's all about trying to get myself into position and I have only been in position once really and that was last year at Adare Manor, and then the more you are up there the easier it is to win out here.

"So I feel like I am already a little more with it even though I've only played one event than compared to previous years."

"Looking at the video Damien made, I am quite happy with my swing and my overall game is in pretty good shape for this early stage of the year.”