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Breakthrough days for McKibbin and Walsh despite near misses – News – Irish Golf Desk


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Tom McKibbin headed home from the Italian Open with a spot in The Open and place in world’s top 100 despite losing a playoff to Germany’s Marcel Siem at the first extra hole after a bizarre and dramatic afternoon in Ravenna.

The Holywood star (21) was six shots behind 54-hole leaders Siem (43), India’s Shubhankar Sharma, Danish rookie Sebastian Friedrichsen and France’s Antoine Rozner overnight.

But after firing a bogey-free six-under 65 to grab the clubhouse lead on 10-under, he endured a nail-biting afternoon after finishing three hours before the final group.

Veteran Siem looked in command when he picked up three birdies to lead by a shot from Rozner on 13-under at the turn as the wind got up and the bogeys followed.

McKibbin was waiting to see if he’d claim one of two spots in The Open but ended up having to recall his caddie, Dave McNeilly, from the railway station as it became clear that not only would he secure his Open debut, but he might have more golf to play.

Friedrichsen crashed to a 78 and Sharma and Rozner shot 73s to tie for fifth on eight-under, as Siem (43) bogeyed the 11th, 14th, 15th and 17th to fall a shot behind McKibbin on nine-under.

But the German made it a bittersweet afternoon for the Newtownabbey native as he birdied the 18th twice in the space of 30 minutes to claim his sixth DP World Tour win.

After making a 22-footer at the 18th in regulation to card a 71 and tie with McKibbin on 10-under, the German made an eight-footer on their return to the 18th in sudden death after the Northern Irish star’s 12-footer slipped by.

“Holing that putt on 18 was one of the coolest moments in golf,”  Siem said. “To do it again in a playoff was fantastic.”

McKibbin had the consolation of a cheque for €334,383 and a jump to eighth in the Race to Dubai, which puts him in position to win one of ten PGA Tour cards awarded at the end of the season

He also became the 16th Irish golfer to crack the world’s top 100 and claimed his second major start via The Open Qualifying Series.

“I’m so excited,” said McKibbin, who will be joined at Royal Troon by American Sean Crocker, who tied for third with Germany’s Jannik de Bruyn. “I got a taste for it at the US Open a couple of couple weeks ago. So I’m looking forward to going to Troon.”

It was also a memorable day for Castlewarden’s Lauren Walsh (23), who closed with a best-of-the-week, seven-under 64 to finish a career-best tied third (€15,750) in the VP Bank Swiss Ladies Open on 10-under and moved to 19th in the Order of Merit and fourth in the Rookie of the Year standings.

She finished a shot outside a playoff between England’s Alice Hewson and India’s Tvesa Malik, who both finished eagle-birdie to tie on 11-under before Hewson claimed her second LET title with a birdie at the first extra hole. 

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