Tom McKibbin was the best of the Irish at US Open Final Qualifying at Walton Heath, but it would be a day of mixed fortunes as he’d miss out on automatic qualification by the minimum, but secured one of two alternate spots.
Round one, which he’d play on the Old Course, began with a bogey at the par-3 first, but it would be the only blemish on the card as he’d record birdies at the third, fifth and eighth holes to make the turn at -2.
He’d catch fire on the inward side, making birdie at 11, 12, 14, 16 and 17 to cover the par-37 nine in 32 strokes to post -7, tied for the halfway lead with Ross Fisher, though the English former Ryder Cup star shot his 65 on the more difficult New Course.
As one of the last to start his second round, McKibbin’s challengers were beginning to assert themselves and it became apparent that he’d have to shoot red figures again to secure his ticket to LA Country Club.
With two birdies to one bogey, he’d make the turn in good position, but bogeys on 11, 14 and 15 saw him drop to tied 18th. Back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 gave him a chance, but he’d need another at the last to force a four-for-three playoff and when he could only par, the top seven were set with McKibbin on the outside looking in.
The day wasn’t over yet, however, as two alternate spots on offer meant McKibbin would face off against Callum Hill, Andrew Wilson and Jordan Gumbert to determine which two names would be sent forth, and it would be McKibbin and Gumbert who would prevail and will now be hoping fortunes swing their way and enough withdrawals see them tee it up in LA next month.
Royal Dublin Amateur Hugh Foley, who’d battled through four rounds in the Irish Amateur at The Island last weekend shot rounds of +2 and +1 respectively, while Paul Dunne, who’d briefly got to -1 for the event through eight holes in round two, would retire after back-to-back bogeys on 11 and 12 ended any hopes of a fairytale comeback for the Greystones man.
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