McKibbin continues fine form with strong 68 in Dunhill Championship

Ronan MacNamara
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Tom McKibbin (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

A closing birdie continued Tom McKibbin’s impressive start to life on the DP World Tour as he moved into the top-10 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on day one at Leopard Creek.

McKibbin carded a four-under 68 to lie in a share of 8th place on four-under-par just three shots behind home favourite Dean Burmester.

Beginning on the back nine, the Holywood teenager was steady out of the traps with five successive pars before two birdies in three holes gave him some momentum heading into the back nine.

Back-to-back birdies to start his homeward journey moved him to within two of clubhouse leader Lukas Nemecz.

The 19-year-old dropped his first and only shot of the day on the par-3 8th but showed his powers of recovery with a closing birdie on the 9th hole to leap back into the top-10.

Leopard Creek looked slightly different to previous outings with some rough shaved away both on the fairways and around the greens with run off areas making the course play firm and fast.

“Yeah it was very good today. A good start on a very tough golf course so I will take that any day of the week,” said McKibbin who hit 15 greens in regulation.

“The fairways were definitely pretty hot, fortunately I hit a lot of greens so I don’t really know what the run offs are like around the greens but it’s a tricky course to play.

It was another positive day for McKibbin who last played at Leopard Creek as an amateur and he has been impressive in the early rounds of his rookie season on the DP World Tour.

The Newtownabbey native has posted finishes of 18th and 15th in his first two starts and was in a confident mood heading into the week at a venue he described as “special.”

“It’s great out here I mean I played here a few years ago in an amateur event and the place is just completely different with what they did to the rough and stuff and the grass. It’s in phenomenal condition, probably one of the best courses I have played in competition and the pureness of the turf is just so good.”

Meanwhile, Gary Hurley and John Murphy both have work to do to be around for the weekend after rounds of 73 and 75 respectively.

It was a rollercoaster opening day for Hurley in a round that included just two pars in his opening 13 holes. The West Waterford native began on the back nine and roared into a share of the early lead with four birdies in the first five holes.

However, the 29-year-old found some erratic form from there and gave all four shots away over a three hole stretch. Bogeys on 15 and 16 were followed by a double-bogey six on 17.

Hurley, making his second start of the season dropped further shots on the first, third and fourth while also picking up a much needed birdie on 2.

The 2015 Walker Cupper found some steady form towards the finish with four successive pars and a birdie to eventually finish on one-over and in a share of 87th place.

Kinsale’s Murphy also struggled for pars in the early stages of his round, carding just two on his front nine as he turned in three-over 38.

The 24-year-old opened with three bogeys in five holes before closing out his opening nine with two birdies and two bogeys.

Murphy also registered a brace of gains and a brace of blemishes on his way to the clubhouse and he has work to do to avoid a hat trick of missed cuts in his rookie DP World Tour season.

At the top, Burmester admitted his back nine was some of the best golf he has played in quite some time after carding six birdies in a homeward journey of just 31 strokes in the blustering conditions.

“What a back nine!”

“Some of the best I’ve played in a little while so I’m happy to do that.”

When asked if the wind was difficult to judge at times on day one, Burmester said: “Very tricky. “We had up to three clubs at times and then we had nothing. And then it was moving around as well.

“The 15th hole, the tee-shot was downwind and then my ball mid-flight went into the wind.

“The third shot was kind of into off the left, into off the right, all over the place.

“And then we got to the 16th and there was no wind. But managed to deal with it.”

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