McKibbin brimming with confidence as he hunts second win

Ronan MacNamara
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Tom McKibbin (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Four birdies on the back nine has lifted Tom McKibbin to within one of the lead heading into the final round of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

A run of seven successive pars was broken by a welcome birdie on the par-5 10th before he took advantage of his excellent iron play rolling in birdies from inside seven feet on the 12th, 16th and 18th to sign for a 68 on nine-under-par.

McKibbin trails a leading trio of Rasmus Hojgaard, Ugo Coussaud and Rikuya Hoshino by the minimum and he was pleased with how he remained patient throughout the round.

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“It was very solid, started off slowly on the front nine so to get through the front nine level which I have done most days was solid,” said the 21-year-old who is chasing a second DP World Tour title and a place in the top-100 in the OWGR for the first time.

“Gave myself a target to get through the back nine two or three under which thankfully I went one better so overall, pretty good day.

“It’s very tricky, once you get a few opportunities and don’t take them it’s very easy to make a mistake and a tee shot runs through the rough so with the greens being so firm it’s really tricky when it’s windy to stay patient and not force it you just need to stay patient.”

The Holywood man has enjoyed a consistent start to his second DP World Tour season, making six cuts with two top-16 finishes and he is very pleased with where his game is at.

“Everything feels really good, played really nicely the last few weeks, everything is solid so I feel pretty confident I’ve been playing nicely.”

Højgaard, who has been not dropped a shot in his last 33 holes, said: “Most part of the round was very solid. I felt I was pretty good out of the tee box, I gave myself some good chances and rolled a few in.

“The last few holes there were a couple of poor swings, but managed to keep it bogey-free so that’s a positive.”

It looked as though Australian Barron was continuing his momentum from the opening two rounds when he climbed to ten under after the first hole.

Hoshino was in close quarters with an opening birdie and he was in leading group when Barron bogeyed the third and fourth, despite the Japanese dropping a shot at the latter hole as well.

That left the door open for Højgaard, Ferguson and Waring to join them at the top of the leaderboard at seven under, but Hoshino moved ahead with a gain at the seventh.

However, Ferguson, who had to wait until the seventh to pick up his first shot of the day, went a terrific run of six birdies in eight holes to take the outright lead at nine under after 14 holes.

Coussaud joined him at that mark on the back of a hat-trick of birdies from the eighth, only for Hoshino to move into double figures after gains at the ninth and tenth.

He immediately gave the shot back at the 11th, which saw Coussaud take full advantage following a brace of birdies at the 12th and 13th.

The Frenchman now held a two-shot lead, but he found trouble from the tee at the 15th to halve his deficit and Højgaard wasted no time to reach double figures for the first time at the 17th hole.

The Dane drained a 13-foot putt to sit alongside Coussaud at the top, but Hoshino joined the pair when he sank a birdie at the penultimate hole for the third day in a row.

Højgaard and Coussaud struggled off the final tee, but both managed to salvage par, while Hoshino slid a birdie putt by which would have given him a one-shot lead heading into the final round.

“I had a very good start, two birdies, but the putter was quite hot today and felt I hit very good tee-shots as well,” Coussaud said. “I was never in too much trouble before 15, but I had a proper round and enjoyed it today.”

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