No rest for the wicked as McKibbin’s Open Championship chase continues

Mark McGowan

Tom McKibbin with Scottie Scheffler in the final round at Pinehurst (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Tom McKibbin made his major championship debut, made his maiden major championship cut and got an up-close-and-personal look at world number one Scottie Scheffler last weekend, but there’s no rest for the 21-year-old as he returns to Europe and gets set to tee it up at the KLM Open in the Netherlands, seeking to play his way into the Open Championship at Royal Troon.

Despite being a DP World Tour winner and arguably the most consistent performer on the regular circuit in 2024 – four top-10 finishes and just once outside the top 25 – he has yet to secure his place in the field for the year’s final major.

All else failing, there is Final Qualifying at one of four venues on Tuesday, July 02, but despite playing his way through U.S. Open Final Qualifying at Walton Heath, there is more than an element of fortune required with elite fields, limited spaces on offer and only 36 holes to separate.

But he can skip that step this week. A tournament victory would thrust him sufficiently high in the Race to Dubai rankings to virtually guarantee an exemption regardless, but the leading two finishers not already exempt will receive invitations to the Championship.

And after getting a taste for major action, it’s hard to go back to the sidelines, even though the Holywood clubman must’ve been as devastated as anybody to watch Rory McIlroy come up shy in such agonising fashion. Still, getting to share the fairways with the undisputed number one player in the world in competition was a bucket list item ticked off.

“It was obviously a great day to play with Scottie, who has arguably been the best player in the world in the last couple of years, and to see how he plays around such a difficult course. It was just a great day,” said McKibbin, who matched Scheffler over the 18 holes and shared a T41 finish with the Texan.

“I’m pretty happy with how I handled it. I could have got carried away and shot a big number but, no, I played very solid and he is probably one of the nicest guys I have played with so that made it quite easy.”

A birdie on the 36th hole saw the major rookie through to the weekend – and he knew he had to birdie, which made it all the more impressive – and he feels that the experience was invaluable and will stand him in good stead when he next tees it up in one of golf’s big four.

“If I have more experience and tidy some things up I can climb the leader boards a little bit,” he said, before adding with a laugh that a major victory may be asking a bit much at this stage. “Give me some time, maybe.”

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