Fast finish sees McKibbin in midfield as fog wreaks havoc in Japan

Mark McGowan

Tom McKibbin (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Tom McKibbin birdied three of his final seven holes to post a one-under 69 after a fog-affected day one of the ISPS HANDA – Championship in Japan.

Making his first tournament start in four weeks, the 21-year-old was forced to wait to get his opening round underway after nearly three hours was lost to fog early in the morning at Taiheiyo Club Gotemba Course.

And a bogey on his opening hole was far from the ideal start, and 10 consecutive pars to follow left the Holywood man with work to do. His first birdie of the day arrived at the par-5 third, and though he’d give that shot back at the next, birdie number two arrived on the par-4 fifth and he’d add another birdie-three on the eighth to get into red figures for the first time.

A closing par would follow, and he’d end the day tied for 56th, but just four shots off the lead which is held by a four-strong contingent that includes Germany’s Yannik Paul alongside Japanese trio Tomoyo Ikemura, Taisei Shimizu and Taiki Yoshida.

Another local favourite in Taiga Nagano was also at five-under with seven holes remaining, with only two of the afternoon groups having completed their rounds in the penultimate event on the Asian Swing, which is co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organization.

Keita Nakajima – the most recent Japanese winner on the DP World Tour following his Hero Indian Open triumph in March – and compatriots Yuki Inamori and Ryosuke Kinoshita were in the clubhouse at four under alongside China’s Li Haotong, South African Casey Jarvis, Swede Sebastian Söderberg and Scot Connor Syme.

Paul – a winner at the 2022 Mallorca Golf Open – already has three top tens in 2024 and his 65 was his lowest round since his first of the season at the Dubai Invitational.

Starting on the tenth, he birdied the 11th, 14th, 15th and 18th to turn in 31 and a 45-footer on the second handed him the solo lead.

Another birdie on the next got him to six under, before he  made two bogeys to a single birdie on the way in.

“I putted nicely,” Paul said afterwards. “My putting coach came to Arizona two weeks ago, we changed quite a few things, that was the first time I had seen him in a while outside a golf tournament. Better time to change some stuff.

“Worked nicely today, holed some good putts. Was hitting it OK, nothing special. Capitalised on my chances.”

The first round will resume at 06.30 on day two, with all second round tee times subject to a one-hour delay, meaning McKibbin won’t get his second round underway until 13:50 local time.


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