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Azalea: Win a stepping stone for Murphy?
Calling it the biggest win of his amateur golf career, South Carolina's Will Murphy hopes that the Azalea Invitational leads to even more opportunities.

Currently the 140th-ranked player in the Golfweek Men's NCAA rankings and No. 122 in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com U.S. Player Rankings, Murphy has found himself in contention for much of the last two years.

He finished tied for seventh at last year's Palmetto Amateur and logged Top 25s at the Southeastern Amateur, Rice Planters and Oglethorpe Invitational. For the Gamecocks this school year, Murphy was sixth at the Rees Jones Invitational, fourth at the Seahawk Invitational and 11th at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate.

The win over a loaded field filled with some of the nation's top mid-amateurs and juniors -- as well as a large volume of his NCAA contemporaries -- might just be the stepping stone he's been looking for.

"I've been putting myself in contention a lot but just haven't been able to get the job done," Murphy said. "All along, my game has been where I wanted it to be but the Azalea gives me the confidence I need.

"Knowing that I can pull it out under pressure in tournaments that I'm in down the road is a good feeling."

Murphy shot 67 in Friday's second round to pull within four shots over co-leaders Brennan King and Michael Johnson. After Saturday's play was rained out, Murphy went low again, shooting a 3-under 68 to enter the clubhouse as the leader.

When North Florida's M.J. Maguire buried a lengthy putt on 18 to force a playoff, Murphy was ready. He two-putted for par on the par-4 1st hole at the Country Club of Charleston and had his biggest win to date.

WET WEATHER AGAIN MAKES AN IMPACT

An early spring event anywhere in the U.S. is ultimately a coin flip when talking about the weather forecast but next year, the Azalea should be due for a dry week.

For the second straight year, wet weather made a major impact on the event. Saturday's play was wiped out and rain and the wet conditions were factors on Friday and in Sunday's final round.

In the end, though, the entire field has to play the conditions.

"It was really windy Sunday and not the greatest of conditions," Murphy said. "I told myself that patience was the main thing. Knowing that bogeys and bad things were going to happen, I was able to keep my emotions in check.


"Playing in the rain is never easy, but having the patience to do well in those conditions helps."

The 2013 event was shortened to just 36 holes due to heavy rains that swept through the Charleston area.

COUNTRY CLUB OF CHARLESTON SHINES

Despite the tough weather, the historic Seth Raynor design held up well.

Just under 6,600 yards, it challenged the field of long college athletes and tested them with lightning-fast greens.

Tournament director David Humphreys said before the event that the course would play fast and firm. Although rain softened things up a bit, the layout held up to Humphrey's promise.

"The course isn't very long and if you stay in the fairway off the tee, you'll have a lot of wedges in," said Johnson, a redshirt sophomore at Auburn, who shot 66 on Friday. "But the greens are tough."

Murphy, who played in his first Azalea but had previously played the Country Club of Charleston during his junior days, thought the course was in excellent shape.

"It was in the best shape I'd ever seen it," he said. "The greens were fast but because of the rain, still receptive. That's a great combination.

The Country Club of Charleston underwent a redesign and restoration in 2006 and hosted the U.S. Women's Amateur last summer.

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