McKibbin says defence of European Open title a good test for US Open

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Tom McKibbin (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

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Tom McKibbin says this week’s European Open could prove ideal preparation for his upcoming Major Championship debut as he makes his first DP World Tour title defence.

The Northern Irishman claimed his breakthrough win in this event last year and, alongside those fond memories, returns to Germany buoyed further by recently qualifying for the U.S. Open.

With the North Course at Green Eagle Golf Courses – the longest on the DP World Tour – regarded as one of the toughest by players, McKibbin believes the challenge will serve as a good barometer of his game ahead of making the trip to the United States to play at Pinehurst No. 2 from June 13-16.

“[Pinehurst] is obviously a very difficult golf course so really looking forward to it. This week could actually be a good test for it because here [Green Eagle Golf Courses] is very, very hard,” said McKibbin ahead of his final appearance before travelling stateside.

McKibbin will join Major Champions Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry among a host of established figures of the game at next month’s penultimate Major of the season in North Carolina.

“I am very excited just to get over there, play and to see where my game is at,” he added. “So [this week should] sort of get me into that mental state of battling it out.”

After qualifying for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship last year, McKibbin has enjoyed a series of impressive results so far this season with a trio of top tens in Qatar, South Africa and Japan.

Those results helped him rise to a career-high 125th in the Official World Golf Ranking in March and mean he comes into his first start on European soil so far this year lying 25th in the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex.

Asked to reflect on how he has found adjusting to becoming a winner on the DP World Tour over the last year, he replied: “Pretty good. It sort of eased a lot of things up for me.

“I’ve sort of been able to play a bit more relaxed, maybe with a bit more freedom and sort of after getting the win I sort of believed I could do it. So I sort of relaxed things up and I think I’ve handled it quite well and and played quite nicely since.”

McKibbin is ranked sixth for driving accuracy so far this season, and with five par fives measuring more than 500 yards, the 21-year-old is hopeful that strength in his game can come to the fore again.

Having played a practice round earlier on Tuesday, McKibbin expects the course to play longer due to cooler conditions in the lead up.

“I sort of forgot how hard the course is being out there today,” he said.

“It’s a very long golf course, very challenging off the tee so long and straight is probably a good combo.

“But as I said, it was a lot warmer last year and the ball sort of got a bit of a bit of run on the fairways.

“So, it’s playing a lot longer this year so I think driving will be very, very big again.”

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