McKibbin broke through last Sunday, playing the shot of the tournament into the final green, to capture a maiden DP World Tour title by a comfortable two shots, and in just his 26th Tour start.
McIlroy spoke of his delight for McKibbin, a fellow Holywood club member who the current World No. 3 says he’s known for over a decade.
“I know Tom very well. I watched every shot this morning. I was really happy for him”, said McIlroy last Sunday night following his bitter disappointment in letting slip victory at The Memorial in Dublin, Ohio.
“For 20 years old, he showed so much composure. And, yeah, look, he’s been, we’ve all known from back home the potential that he has, but I think to break through and win for the first time at 20 years old is, there’s a bright future ahead of him.
“And, yeah, just so happy and so proud of him, really. I’ve known Tom since he was 10 years old. And to see his progression and see where he is today and get that first win in Europe, was really cool to see.”
Lowry also was thrilled for McKibbin, and revealed he actually was on his mobile phone during his own Memorial final round to check how McKibbin was progressing in Hamburg.
“I’m really happy for Tom. I’ve played a little bit of golf with him while one of my good friends is one of his sponsors,” said Lowry, referring to Stephen Grant of Grant Engineering in Birr who has been sponsoring McKibbin since 2021.
“Tom is obviously the next great hope for golf in Ireland and fair play to him. Since he’s been a kid, he’s had to live-up to being the next Rory McIlroy thing and he’s come out now and won a DP World Tour event at age 20.
“I was keeping an eye on him as I was getting ready this morning, and then I actually checked my phone out on the course to see if he won, so I am delighted for him.
“I’m also thrilled for Dave McNeilly who caddies for him, as Dave must be nearly 70-years of age or he might be 70-years of age.
“So, it’s great for them and it’s great for Irish golf”.
Irish golf fans will never forget that golfing moment 13-years ago last month, when a 22-year-old, curly-haired Lowry, and then amateur stunned the golf world in capturing the 2009 Irish Open at Baltray.
Though it took Lowry a further three years before he won a second tournament in Portugal, reflecting the difficulty in winning in the play-for-pay game.
“It’s a huge win for Tom, as it’s not easy to win out here on any tour, and like I said, Tom’s had a lot of pressure heaped on him since a young age, and about being the next Rory McIlroy”, said Lowry.
“That can’t be easy as Rory McIlroy is one of the greatest golfers of all time”.
And Harrington posted a tweet saying: “What a great win by @tommckibbin8
“Not just a very talented golfer, he really is a nice lad. The future of Irish golf, European golf and Ryder cup golf is in good hands. So happy for Dave Mcneilly too, he did a fine job letting Tom play to his strengths @DPWorldTour.”
Harrington had predicted last December, and ahead of McKibbin teeing-up in the co-sanctioned Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa, that ”He’ll win quick” and “I’d say he’ll win before any of the others, and it could be pretty soon”.
Harrington was not wrong as six months later the triple major champion was proven correct.