Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Golf

Our Tom (15) flourishes among pros on his Euro Tour debut

 

By Adam McKendry

Despite being just 15 years of age, Tom McKibbin didn't look out of place at the Shot Clock Masters in Atzenbrugg, Austria as he recorded a one-under-par 71 in his first event on the European Tour.

The Holywood golfer is still playing as an amateur, and is only here on a sponsor's invite, but after 18 holes he's already better than more than half the field at Diamond Country Club and is in with a great shout of making the cut.

In fact, it could have been even better for McKibbin, who cruised through his first nine holes in three-under-par, but a double bogey at the 11th saw him drop back to one-under, which he followed with seven consecutive pars.

To put into context what a stunning achievement this is, McKibbin finished his round tied for 39th. In a 120-strong field, he shot better than 66 professionals.

Potentially even more impressive is how he didn't let the nerves get to him. After parring the first, he dropped a shot at the second and, to some others on their debut, that could have started a steady decline for the rest of the round.

Not for McKibbin. Instead, the young Ulsterman bounced back with birdies at the third and fourth, before gaining two more shots at the seventh and ninth.

Despite the blip at the 11th, McKibbin will undoubtedly be delighted with how his professional debut went, with his impressive par run to finish enough to see him card a round in the red on his European Tour bow.

He's tied with one of two other Irishmen in the field, Gavin Moynihan, while Ruaidhri McGee carded a one-over-par 73.

Sweden's Oscar Lengden is the solo leader at six-under-par, but there's a large group chasing him at five-under which includes Miguel Angel Jimenez, who carded an incredible 67.

This week's event features a unique new shot clock, which times players to try and improve the pace of play.

Players are allowed 50 seconds to hit their shot if they are first to play in their group. If they are second or third to go, then the time limit reduces to 40 seconds.

The timer begins once the first player to hit reaches their ball, or is able to play, with each player allowed two extensions of 40 seconds during their round. Any player who exceeds the time limit is penalised a stroke.

So far it has been met with positive feedback, with players such as Dave Horsey, Matthias Schwab and Bernd Wiesberger all supporting the new format.

Meanwhile, Paul Dunne says he can't wait for his 'fifth Major' when he takes to the course at Ballyliffin next month for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

The 25-year-old will be arriving in Co Donegal with some momentum after winning the British Masters last October, and he's recorded four top-10s in his last seven events.

"The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open is the tournament we look forward to the most," said World No.71 Dunne. "To win it would be right up there with the four Majors for me personally.

"I think Ballyliffin will be a great test of a venue this year. It's always good to play in front of the home crowd and the support is always incredible. They always keep you in it.

"It's going to be another great week and hopefully the weather holds up nicely. If I can give myself chances over the next few years to win it I would be delighted."

• RORY McIlroy will play the first two rounds of next week's US Open at Shinnecock Hills with Phil Mickelson and World No.5 Jordan Spieth.

Tiger Woods has been paired with the world's top two golfers Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, while Graeme McDowell is alongside Lucas Glover and Webb Simpson in a trio of former US Open champions.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph