Tom McKibbin was proud of his back nine fightback at Club de Golf Alcanada that keeps his hopes of being promoted to the DP World Tour alive at the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by the R&A.
The Northern Irish teenager had bogeyed five of his first 10 holes, stringing together three in succession at the fifth, sixth and seventh before adding two more at the ninth and 10th to fall to five-over.
But, facing a dreadful round in the face, the 19-year-old rallied superbly with four birdies on his back nine, picking up shots at the 11th, 13th, 14th and 16th to end the day with a one-over 73 in Spain.
That has him tied for 21st after the opening round, five shots back of leaders Javier Sainz (Spain) and Euan Walker (Scotland) but, more importantly, still in 18th on the Road to Mallorca standings.
With the top-20 at the end of the week earning their place on the DP World Tour for next season, McKibbin needs to hang on to at least his current position and he was thrilled with how he battled back at Club de Golf Alcanada.
“I’m very proud of how I fought back after that start,” said the Galgorm touring pro.
“I didn’t even do that much wrong, just a couple of shots that were a little bit in the rough and I literally had some stinker lies I couldn’t do much about. But I just stayed patient and played really nicely the last eight holes.
“(On the back nine) I was just trying to hit fairways, to be honest. I hit a few tee shots that weren’t even that poor, just landed on the edge of the fairway and bounced in. I just tried to dig in and hit a few fairways.
“I felt like after nine holes I wasn’t necessarily out of doing well but I was out of winning it. But that back nine was special. The forecast means if you can hang in there and shoot a good score tomorrow, it’s all to play for.”
Five birdies and one bogey from each of Sainz and Walker have them in a share of the lead after a pair of four-under 68s in the opening round and both are set to jump into the top-20 on the Road to Mallorca if they win on Sunday.
Their lead is one shot over Germany’s Alexander Knappe, England’s Todd Clements and France’s Jeong weon Ko, all of whom are already inside the top-20 on the Order of Merit and opened with 69s, with five players tied at two-under.
Meanwhile, John Murphy struggled in his opening round as five bogeys and one birdie led to a four-over 76 that has him down in 35th and a long way off the mark he needs to reach to qualify for the top-20 on the Road to Mallorca.
The Kinsale man likely needs a high finish – potentially even a win – to climb into the qualification spots.
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