McKibbin falls short in bid for first professional win as Rusch holds on for victory in Italian Challenge Open

Adam McKendry

Tom McKibbin (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Tom McKibbin’s bid to claim a first professional victory wasn’t to be at the Italian Challenge Open as the Galgorm teen finished two shots off eventual winner Kristian Krogh Johannessen in Viterbo.

The 19-year-old started the day one shot off the lead at Golf Nazionale but never managed to work his way into top spot as he struggled to find momentum, eventually settling for three birdies and two bogeys in a one-under 70.

That took McKibbin to nine-under for the tournament and earned him a share of fifth place, his best result since he finished third at the Cape Town Open in February, and will give him a nice boost in the Race to Mallorca rankings, where he sat 45th coming into the week, as he looks to secure a DP World Tour card for next season.

Ahead of him, it was a dramatic finish in Viterbo as Johannessen claimed his first Challenge Tour win, the 27-year-old Norwegian triumphing in a play-off over Oliver Hundebøll after Switzerland’s Benjamin Rusch threw away a huge chance to win his first Challenge Tour event.

Hundebøll blew his own chance to win it outright after he pulled one shot clear at 13-under-par thanks to an eagle, five birdies and a bogey, and he even bounced back from a bogey at the 15th with a birdie at the 16th, but a calamitous double-bogey at the par-three 17th dropped him back into second.

The 23-year-old would have to settle for a 67 and the clubhouse lead alongside Johannessen, who also had a 67 on Sunday, as Rusch put together back-to-back birdies at the 13th and 14th in a bogey-free 17 holes to claim the one-shot lead at 12-under-par.

But needing a par or better to win the tournament, the Swiss capitulated down the last, taking a double-bogey six at the par-four and leaving Hundebøll and Johannessen to head back down the 18th for extra holes.

And it was Johannessen who broke his Challenge Tour duck at the first extra hole, the Norwegian picking up a par as Hundebøll saw another disappointing double-bogey cost him dearly.

Meanwhile, Ruaidhri McGee had been on for a good final round after three birdies before the turn, but a bogey at the par-three 12th and then a double-bogey on the par-four 16th saw him end his week with a level-par 71 to finish the tournament in a share of 40th place at two-under-par overall.


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