McKibbin into 2nd in South Africa but leader Ritchie will take some catching

Adam McKendry

Tom McKibbin (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Adam McKendry

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After rounds of 65, 68 and 66, in any other event Tom McKibbin would not only be competing but he would likely take the lead into the final round. At the Jonsson Workwear Open in South Africa, he’s ten shots off the lead.

That is solely down to the brilliance of JC Ritchie, who has produced awe-inspiring golf over the first three days in Durban, rounds of 61, 63 and 65 taking him to 25-under and ten clear of second-placed McKibbin.

The South African celebrated his 28th birthday on Thursday with a course-record nine-under 61 that included a hole-in-one at Mount Edgecombe Country Club, backed it up with another nine-under 63 at Durban Country Club on Friday and then added a seven-under 65 at Durban on day three.

After losing out to Ritchie in Cape Town last week as well, you wouldn’t blame McKibbin for thinking that every time he’s in contention to win a tournament, the South African will pop up and pip him to it again.

As it is, the 19-year-old from Holywood will have to content himself with trying to close out the race for second place in Durban, where he is one shot clear of Nicolai Kristensen, Adam Blomme and Christopher Mivis at 15-under, and complete his best finish on the Challenge Tour.

He will not give up hope that Ritchie may collapse in the final round and fall back to the field, giving him a chance at the title, but realistically being the best of the rest is what he is hoping for.

Still, it is another week for the young up-and-coming talent to learn from, particularly as he will be in the final group on a Sunday in a Challenge Tour event for the second week in a row, which will only bode well for his development moving forward, while there are still valuable Road to Mallorca points on offer as he looks to secure a DP World Tour card for next season.

McKibbin will be pleased with his entire round but particularly the finish, which saw him birdie three of his last five holes to haul himself into solo second from amongst a bunched leaderboard playing catch-up to Ritchie.

The teen had started well, too, birdies dropping at the third, fourth, eighth and 10th to keep himself motoring in the right direction, however he suffered a setback at the par-four 11th when he dropped his only bogey of the day which, with others surging around him.

But a fine response saw him end on a high and leap above the chasing pack, three more birdies coming at 14, 17 and 18 for a six-under 66 that moves him up to 15-under.

Behind him, Denmark’s Kristensen carded the best round of the day as eight birdies led to a bogey-free 64 that set the early clubhouse lead at 14-under – which was always going to be bettered by Ritchie but at least gave the rest of the field something to aim at – until McKibbin surpassed him.

Sweden’s Blomme and Belgium’s Mivis – who finished runner-up in Cape Town last week – then joined him at 14-under prior to McKibbin going one better at 15-under, which sets up that particular race very intriguingly going into the final round.

Above them, Ritchie is in a world of his own. Still bogey-free for the week, only a collapse of catastrophic proportions would prevent him from claiming back-to-back wins on the Challenge Tour and move him one win away from automatic promotion to the DP World Tour.

In his third round, his only one of the week not to contain an eagle thus far, the 28-year-old added seven more birdies in a stress-free 65 that has him ten shots clear, and he will likely play safe golf on Sunday to close things out without any problems.

Further down the leaderboard it was also a good day for Kinsale’s John Murphy, the only other Irishman to make the cut, as he carded a five-under 67 to move up into a share of 24th at nine-under.

The 23-year-old picked up four birdies on his outward nine and then added two more at the 10th and 12th to move into double figures, however he would drop his only shot of the day his final hole, the par-four 18th, to drop back to nine-under, however he is well-placed to make a run at the top-10 on Sunday.

McKibbin tees off his final round alongside Ritchie at 10am Irish time, while Murphy is off at the earlier time of 8.25am paired with France’s Jeong weon Ko.

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