McKibbin times first under-par round at Challenge Tour Grand Final to perfection

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Tom McKibbin tees off during the Rolex Callenge Tour Grand Final at Alcanada Golf Club in Mallorca. Picture: Niall O'Shea

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Tom McKibbin was delighted to card his first under-par round of the week at the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final and provide a timely boost to his Road to Mallorca hopes.

The Holywood teen had slipped down to 19th in the Order of Merit standings after back-to-back opening rounds of 73, perilously close to dropping out of the top-20 that will be promoted to the DP World Tour after Sunday’s fourth round.

But six birdies and four bogeys in a two-under 70 in his third round saw him climb his way back to level-par for the week at Club de Golf Alcanada and into a share of 17th place, which currently projects him to be 16th on the Road to Mallorca.

McKibbin now has a small buffer to play with in his final round in Spain and he was delighted with a round that saw him birdie three of his first five holes and carry on his momentum from there.

“Bit of everything. Nice fast start, few bogeys at the end of the front nine and a good start to the back nine. Overall a good day,” said a pleased McKibbin.

“Conditions were a little bit easier today but the course is still really tough. Some of the pins are really tucked away, so under-par was nice.”

Heading into Sunday’s final round, the Galgorm touring pro is only seven shots off the lead held by England’s Nathan Kimsey and South Africa’s Bryce Easton, and posting a low early number could put him in a strong position.

But McKibbin knows that maintaining his current position in the Order of Merit is the main goal, with the riches that await next season if he does, and he’s maintaining a calm outlook in Mallorca.

“Just the same as I always do,” he added of his approach to his fourth round. “The way the leaderboard is so bunched, a good day tomorrow would see me move up again. It should be good.”

With the conditions calming down from what they were on Friday, when three-balls took five hours and 45 minutes to complete their rounds at Alcanada in horrific winds, scoring was much better and Kimsey and Easton took advantage.

The pair both signed for six-under 66s to hit the top at seven-under-par, both players carding seven birdies and one bogey to set the pace heading into the final round, with Easton the biggest benefactor thus far as he is set to leap 31 places in the Road to Mallorca to seventh.

Their lead is just one shot over England’s Matthew Baldwin, the midway leader posting a 71 to sit six-under-par, with Sweden’s Oscar Lengden and France’s Adrien Saddier a shot further back at five-under.

Meanwhile, Kinsale’s John Murphy looks to be too far back to break into the top-20 on the Road to Mallorca, the 24-year-old needing a stunning final round to move sufficiently up the standings after five birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey in a third round 72 left him four-over-par and tied for 30th.


John Murphy tees off during the Rolex Callenge Tour Grand Final at Alcanada Golf Club in Mallorca.
Picture: Niall O’Shea

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