By Bernie McGuire, Yas Links, Abu Dhabi.
Holywood’s newest golfing starlet Tom McKibbin wasted little time getting a first look at this week’s host Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship course.
McKibbin, who turned 20 a week prior to Christmas, had been a reserve in this week’s record $US9m event before getting a call Monday to advise he was into the $US9m field and easily the richest of his short pro career.
He was in Orlando at the time, so fortunately McKibbin could jump aboard a direct flight to nearby Dubai and take the 90-minute drive south, arriving at his Abu Dhabi hotel close to 9pm Tuesday night (Local time).
However, with the Yas Links course booked both morning and afternoon for the Wednesday tournament pro-am, all McKibbin could do was walk the course with his caddy.
It meant spending the afternoon on the range, though it has not spoiled the Tour rookie’s enthusiasm to get a scorecard in his back pocket for a first occasion since mid-last month when he banked four pay cheques from as many events at the start of the 2022/23 wraparound season.
“It was a long trip from the States, so it’s nice being here as I was so looking forward to teeing-up,” said McKibbin.
“I’ve had a good few weeks off since being in South Africa and Mauritius and I didn’t touch a club till last Sunday, so excited to get back into competition and see how my game is.
“This is my first visit to Abu Dhabi though I’ve been to Dubai before, and from what I saw this morning the golf course is in fantastic shape, and I’m interested how it’s going to play as there was a lot of wind out there today.
“So, it’s just great being here.”
McKibbin superbly ignited his full DP World Tour status finishing top-20 in his opening three events ahead of 40th place at the Mauritius Open. He arrived in Abu Dhabi lying a lofty 33rd on the Race to Dubai money list and 285th on the World Rankings.
“I played pretty solidly in the four events before Christmas but I was pleased for the break as I was feeling quite tired,” he said.
“As I said, it was just nice to have a break but now I’m itching to get going.”
McKibbin indicated while not being into next week’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic, and currently the sixth reserve, he will tee-up in the following week’s Ras Al Khaimah Championship, around an hour’s drive north of Dubai.
He is also a confirmed entry to the then following week’s Singapore Classic commencing on February 9th.
McKibbin is joining three other Irish this week including former 2019 champ, Shane Lowry along with Seamus Power and Padraig Harrington.
Harrington has elected to support the DP World Tour for a fortnight in lieu of travelling to Hawaii this week for the start of the Champions Tour, where he won four times last season.
ABU DHABI HSBC CHAMPIONSHIP – Yas Links Golf Club, Abu Dhabi
Irish Tee times (Irish time):
- 3.30am – Shane Lowry
- 3.40am – Seamus Power
- 4.50am – Tom McKibbin
- 8.05pm – Padraig Harrington
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