Tom McKibbin was left delighted with his finish at the ISPS HANDA World Invitational as he looks to have done enough to secure his first top-10 finish on the DP World Tour at Galgorm Castle and Massereene.
The 19-year-old, a touring pro at Galgorm, finished with a remarkably solid final round consisting of just four birdies and one bogey, with a three-under 67 seeing him end the week at six-under-par.
McKibbin and playing partner Craig Howie, the first group to tee off on the first due to a two-tee start to avoid expected evening thunderstorms in Co Antrim, raced around their front nine in just under two hours and had to deal with a half-an-hour wait before teeing off at the 10th as they ran into the last groups teeing off the wrong way round.
But they managed to battle on through, and McKibbin was thrilled to finish the way he did – playing his back nine in one-under without dropping a shot – to guarantee his best result on the DP World Tour in his still young career.
“Very happy. If you told me that’s how I’d finish at the start of the week then I’d have taken that, definitely. Solid week,” said the Holywood man, who only made it into the weekend right on the cut line but shot up the leaderboard with a 66 on day three.
“It was good to have a tidy final two rounds. I knew I was playing well the first two days, the breaks just weren’t going my way. I knew if I could get through Friday then I could make a charge at the weekend, so definitely really good.”
McKibbin got under-par with a birdie at the fourth after starting with three straight pars, hitting to five-feet on the par-four, and although he dropped a shot after failing to get up-and-down from just left of the par-four sixth, he finished his outward nine strongly.
A 13-foot putt fell for birdie on the par-three seventh, followed by an eight-footer at the ninth, and after holding on during that half-an-hour break around the turn, he rattled off eight pars in a row to start his back nine – making an impressive sand save on the 16th and up-and-down at the 17th – before two-putting for a closing birdie at the par-five 18th.
Not only does that wrap up a hugely impressive finish on home soil, it will also give McKibbin another timely boost in the Road to Mallorca standings on the Challenge Tour, the teenager currently 16th in the rankings needing to finish in the top-20 to secure his top flight playing status for next season.
McKibbin now heads to Sweden for back-to-back events hoping to continue a run of momentum that has seen him finish in the top-15 in his last five events in a row and put him within touching distance of that DP World Tour card.
“No difference, to be totally honest,” he said when asked about how he felt in this form.
“I know how golf can go, so I just try to play the best I can and try to hit shot after shot and things like that. I’m not massively confident because I’ve been playing well, I’ve just been playing well and that sort of sorts itself out.
“It was nice to come here and play knowing that there were those added bits to it. The golf takes care of itself and hopefully a few extra points will help. I’m looking forward to (the rest of the season).
“The way my golf is going, it should be a nice way to play the rest of the season. There are still plenty of events left so we’ll see how it goes.”
Meanwhile, three birdies and seven bogeys in a closing 74 for David Carey meant he finished the week at two-over-par, which will see the Dubliner end the tournament outside the top-30.