A star act in the making came good, as Tom McKibbin showcased his X-Factor in style: the 20-year-old Belfast golfer – in his rookie season on the DP World Tour – captured his maiden title in stamping his class in the final round of the Porsche European Open in Hamburg, banking a €315,657 payday for his breakthrough win.
“It’s what I’ve worked hard for all my life,” said McKibbin, a graduate of the Challenge Tour who escaped a logjam atop the leaderboard to display his star quality and produced a life-changing performance.
McKibbin shot a final round 70 for a total of nine-under-par 283 gave him a two strokes winning margin over the trio of Marcel Siem, Julien Gurrier and Max Kieffer.
“I always felt I was but to prove it today was pretty special. I have learned a lot from failures and missing cuts by a shot and missing things so slightly so to take all those things I have learned and put them into play today was really nice,” said McKibbin, in his first year on the main European circuit after graduating from the Challenge Tour last season.
Seen as a truly genuine talent during his teenage years, McKibbin jumped into the professional ranks as an 18-year-old after failing to earn a place on the Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team but proved to be very much at home on the pro circuit in cutting his teeth on the Challenge Tour and now making his presence felt on the DP World Tour.
On a day when many contenders struggled – Siem, for one, finding water off the tee on the 16th as the pressure mounted – McKibbin, who admitted to being under the weather in fighting a head cold throughout the tournament, stayed cool and calm and had the presence of experienced caddie Dave McNeilly by his side down the closing stretch in closing the deal superbly.
Nowhere was McKibbin’s aggressive yet composed play more evident than on his 5-iron approach shot to the Par 5 18th. After his tee shot found the first cut down the right of the closing hole, and his approach hampered by a tree, McKibbin’s 5-iron shot from 203 yards was drawn beautifully to seven feet of the flag and he two-putted for the birdie that gave him victory.
“It was sort of tricky and it wasn’t,” described McKibbin of how he saw that approach shot. “I picked a club I knew wouldn’t go in the water. I hit it right edge of the green and if it turned over I knew it would go further, so I had no worries. But it was such a good shot, it felt pretty amazing. There was a little bit of nerves, but not as many as I expected . . . . it looked like a scary shot, but in my mind I knew there was margin for error. It was pretty normal, for me anyway.”
It was, in truth, a wonder shot to signal McKibbin’s arrival onto the big stage. The win is likely to move him up to a career best 159th in the world rankings (from 335th) and also secured his DP World Tour membership into 2025 while also moving him to 23rd in the updated Race to Dubai standings.
McKibbin’s victory will change the dynamics of his season, allowing him to plan a schedule – as a tournament winner – that was previously unavailable to him.
McKibbin grew up playing his golf as a child in Holywood Golf Club in Co Down where none other than Rory McIlroy was his idol and inspiration.
However, although McIlroy went into the final round of the Memorial tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, in a share of the 54-hole lead, aspirations for a Holywood double – on the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour on the same day – proved a false dawn as the world number three struggled in the final round to post a 75 that was only good enough for a tied-seventh place finish.
Shane Lowry closed with a 73 for 288 to finish tied-16th as the Offaly golfer gears up for a stretch that takes in the Canadian Open, the US Open and the Travelers in the coming weeks. Séamus Power shot a closing 74 for 292 to finish in tied-41st.
On the LPGA Tour, Leona Maguire produced a stunning final round 67 to finish on six-under-par 282 and secure a fourth top-10 finish of her season in the Mizuho Americas Open at Liberty National Gofl Club in New Jersey.