There’s a live-stream of the Murray Open this week and, given the extraordinary circumstances of the past year, it would be no surprise to have Forrest Gump in commentary.
Extraordinary stories abound and, to borrow from Tom Hanks’ famous movie character, the outcome will be “like a box of chocolates” because surely nobody can predict what we’re going to see at Murray Downs.
The course is in spectacular condition, drawing high praise from a genuinely talented field, many of whom have travelled way off their normal paths to play a first tournament in months.
So while the lure of direct entry to the Golf Challenge NSW Open is on the line in this first of six regional qualifiers, there’s seemingly so much more at stake as Australia’s emerging – and some veteran – pros try to urgently assess their very futures in the sport.
One extremely talented player who, for various reasons, was forced to rethink his golf in the past 18 months is Max McCardle.
The South Australian, who also suffered a nasty hand injury this year, said having “no purpose” during the pandemic almost forced him in a different direction.
“I think there are a lot of unknowns for almost all the players – confidence and trust in how they’re playing and probably even in execution given they’ve been in isolation or lockdown,” McCardle said.
“Some might even have chosen not to put the work in or felt like putting the work in because there was so much unknown.
“Bar a few tournaments, it’s been going on for 18 months, and as hard as this is to say, some guys probably do lose a bit of interest and look for things to fill in time and also keep earning money to pay their bills.
“I can only speak from my own experience, but last year I felt like I was really wasting time and didn’t have a means or a purpose each day, so I had to go and find 15-20 hours of work to use my mind, but also just to have a purpose and get up and do something.
“So that freshened me up a little and I’m sure there are a few guys in the same boat.”
Reigning NSW Open champ Bryden Macpherson, budding star Elvis Smylie, Japan Tour regular Matt Griffin are McCardle are among those who pundits might normally look to for this 36-hole event.
But as the players who’ve known each other for years almost re-introduce themselves to each other, McCardle said it’s hard to pick a winner.
“It’s a tough one to assess. There are a few guys in the field who have had the chance to go and play in Europe this year – Elvis and Bryden – who have been able to keep pushing full-time and I’d expect those guys to be reasonably sharp,” he said.
“But I’m not sure how many will be at the peaks of their game just yet, to be honest. Everyone will probably be scrambling a little bit.
“But if you look back at the NSW Open field six or seven months ago, that’s a really good event and the majority of those guys are here this week.
“The depth is good, the young guys are ready to play and the veterans floating around are also good players, so this event has some great talent playing for sure.”
The final round of the Murray Open livestream will begin shortly after midday on Friday and continue until the end of play.