McKibbin charges into the weekend with back nine birdie blitz

Ronan MacNamara
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Tom McKibbin (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Five birdies in his last ten holes catapulted Tom McKibbin from outside the cut line and into the top-30 at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship.

On a flat calm day at Al Hamra Golf Club, McKibbin had already lost ground after opening his second round with seven successive pars before a three-putt bogey from five feet on the par-5 8th dropped him back to two-under and a shot below the cut mark.

That seemed to spark the putter into life as he holed an 18-footer for an instant birdie on the ninth before he rolled in another from the fringe on 10.

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Tap in birdies arrive at the par fives 14 and 18 either side of a ten footer on the par-4 17th as he came home in 32 for a 68 to leave him on seven-under-par, seven shots behind Rasmus Hojgaard and Manuel Elvira.

It was a good day for the Irish overall as Padraig Harrington looked more like his old self as he fired a five-under 67 to move comfortably into the weekend in a share of 37th place on six-under-par.

A bogey-free round for the three-time major winner was just the tonic after struggling on his return from a battle with pneumonia and a collapsed lung last week.

England’s Callum Shinkwin had matched the course record with a 62 on day one and in round two it was Spaniard Elvira’s turn to post a ten-under-par effort as he moved to 14 under and the top of the leaderboard.

He was joined by Denmark’s Højgaard – who signed for a 64 – and the leading duo sat one clear of Shinkwin and another Dane in Thorbjørn Olesen, who signed for the week’s third 62 playing alongside Højgaard.

South African Zander Lombard was then at 12 under, one clear of Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti.

Both Højgaard and Elvira have played alongside their brothers on the DP World Tour this season, with Elvira sharing a room this week with 2021 Cazoo Open supported by Gareth Bale champion Nacho, while Højgaard’s identical twin Nicolai is contending at the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA TOUR.

While the 22-year-old Højgaards have been regulars on Tour since 2020, 27-year-old Elvira – nine years his brother’s junior – is playing in his rookie season after graduating from the European Challenge Tour.

He secured three second places as he finished third on the Road to Mallorca last season and is now looking to go one better for a first professional win.

“Obviously playing Challenge Tour last year was a great experience and preparation for the main Tour,” he said. “It is really competitive every week.

“I was lucky to be in contention a lot last year so I feel like am prepared to perform here so we will see what happens on the weekend.

“I try not to worry too much. I just want to go out there, have fun, enjoy it and keep the same strategy as the last couple of days.”

Rasmus Højgaard has four DP World Tour wins to his brother’s three – one of which came here two years ago – with the duo winning in back-to-back weeks in 2021 when Rasmus’ victory in Switzerland was followed seven days later by Nicolai’s in Italy.

“It would be awesome (for both to win),” he said. “It’s something we never talk about because it would be such a rare occurrence.

“I think Minjee and Min Woo (Lee) did it back-to-back. It would be cool if that was to happen but again, it’s nice to see Nicolai play well and I’m just trying to feed off all these good performances.

“He’s playing well and I’m playing well, it’s cool to follow each other’s different paths.”

Elvira began the day six shots off the lead but made a blistering start from the tenth, hitting smart irons on the tenth and 11th, holing a 34-footer on the 12th and pitching in for eagle from 118 yards on the par-four 13th.

Gains on the par-five 14th and third followed before he holed a lengthy putt from the fringe on the fifth, made a 28-footer on the sixth and almost holed his tee-shot on the seventh to take the lead.

Højgaard started his round with a bogey but instantly put that right on the second with an approach to six feet setting up an eagle on the par five.

An up-and-down from the sand at the short par-four fifth and a smart iron at the next brought two more birdies before he made another birdie from the sand at the eighth to turn in 32.

A nice approach at the tenth and lengthy putt on the 12th had him within two before Højgaard made a two-putt birdie on the 14th and up-and-down on the last to join Elvira.

Olesen made seven birdies as he turned in 29 with the help of long putts on the sixth, seventh and ninth, adding further gains on the 14th, 16th and last.

Shinkwin recovered from a bogey on the fourth with birdies on the eighth, 13th, 14th and 17th in a 69, while Lombard stayed bogey-free for the week with a second consecutive 66.

Zanotti carded a 65 to sit at 11 under, a shot ahead of Belgian duo Nicolas Colsaerts and Matthis Besard, Kiwi Sam Jones, Frenchman Frederic Lacroix, German Freddy Schott and South African Brandon Stone.

Thomas Bjørn made the fourth hole-in-one of his DP World Tour career with a nine-iron from 151 yards on the seventh, taking the season’s tally to seven.

Scoring HERE

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