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Player Blog: Tom McKibbin says U.S. Open Major debut at Pinehurst was 'meant to be'
Player Blog

Player Blog: Tom McKibbin says U.S. Open Major debut at Pinehurst was 'meant to be'

Ahead of his Major Championship debut at the U.S. Open, Tom McKibbin describes his sense of anticipation as he prepares to test his game against the best in the world at a venue which holds a special meaning for both him and his family.

McKibbin B&W-2155700347

I couldn’t be more excited to get going for my Major Championship debut at the U.S. Open. It will be an unbelievable experience, something that I have always wanted.

Now, being at Pinehurst, memories of my win at this venue in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championships in 2015 do come to me, just driving around the resort and the buildings. But it was nine years ago so I don’t remember too much but I’ve been to Pinehurst itself a good few times when I was younger.

For me to play my first Major at a venue that I have been to before and really like, with those memories, is great. It’s pretty cool too for my family as well. My mum and dad have been here with me before when I was a kid. It is special for all of us. It feels like it was meant to be.

Last year in Final Qualifying at Walton Heath I had a very good first round and then stayed in neutral for the second round, didn’t get much out of it and ultimately came up one shot shy. This year I sort of played very solid throughout most of the day. I made a mistake and then had a big run at it near the end. I had to birdie the last to get in. I stood on the tee and said to myself that I was going to try and make this happen. I pushed myself one step further this year. It gives me that belief that things are never over until the last hole and to always keep trying. One shot can make all the difference.

The Pinehurst complex is just so nice and it’s a big golfing community. The No. 2 course is phenomenal, very hard and I am looking forward to the challenge. It's a very firm and fast golf course. There is no real rough, it’s a lot of wasteland and tiny bushes in the sand. The greens are pretty crazy, they are very fast, slopey and massive run offs so it can pitch in the green and run on 20-30 yards to one side. it’s very much about patience and playing very sensible golf around these types of courses.

I flew out to North Carolina on Friday, just as much to help ease me suss out the area again ahead of event week beginning. I saw Rory McIlroy a couple of weeks ago so we might play a practice round together over the practice days, but I haven’t got anything stamped in with either him or Shane Lowry. But I hopefully will get in a game with those guys.

I’m trying to treat it like any other week. Obviously that is easier said than done but ultimately I will try to do the same as I would usually and hopefully by the end of the week I will have learned a lot and seen where my game is at compared to the best players in the world and then assess after that.

It’s been a very good first half of the season for me personally on the DP World Tour. I have played a lot of solid and very consistent golf. It’s just been very nice to go out and play stress-free and enjoy my golf. I’ve been very happy with how I have played and how my game has shaped up so far this year. I have had a lot of top 20s, a good few top tens so I am looking forward to the rest of the year. It could be a good one.

I think I have dealt with the extra attention around me since I won my first DP World Tour title last year at the European Open in Germany quite well. Just having the comfort of that win, knowing that this year I can play freely, not that I wouldn’t before, enables you to really go out and enjoy it. You’re not having to worry about having to keep your card. I have just taken advantage of my opportunities and played solid golf which has been enjoyable. Nothing, so far, has gone astray in my game so long may that continue.

McKibbin's form so far in 2024

Tournament Result
European OpenT8
Volvo China OpenT23
Porsche Singapore ClassicMC
Jonsson Workwear Open T9
SDC ChampionshipT12
Commercial Bank Qatar Masters4
Ras Al Khaimah ChampionshipT16
Hero Dubai Desert ClassicT14
Dubai Invitational T25

The defence of my European Open title just recently was perfect timing for me. Green Eagle is a very hard and demanding golf course so to get into that mentality of grinding to make pars because birdies are hard to come across was important. If you did play nicely the birdies were there so it was a very good test for my game and my attitude going into the U.S. Open this week.

I’ve now had a couple of shots at Green Eagle that I won’t forget easily; the approach from the bunker that hit the pin and the second shot around a tree at the par-five 18th last year. If you’d asked me last year to compare which was better, I would have probably said the bunker shot. But when I went back to recreate my shot at 18 this year it seemed a lot harder than at the time so I’m going to say with the circumstances, the shot at 18 just edges it.

Dave McNeilly has been great for me as a caddie for over the last year and a half. We just get on very well and have a good time out there which makes it very easy between us. His experience is immense, he has been to pretty much every golf course in his career.

His biggest attribute, aside his obvious experience, is just keeping me nice and relaxed. We are genuinely out there having a lot of fun. People might think we are joking around but we are just having good time together and chatting to each other. We have both played golf long enough to know and see certain shots, so it is more about him trying to keep me calm and distracting me from the main task in between shots is the key.

Being on the Challenge Tour for a year in 2022 was a great platform for me early on as a professional. To go from being an amateur to playing with guys of a higher standard and playing tournaments where there were cuts of 3, 4, 5 under par meant you really had to learn how to go out there and score low. The standard on the Challenge Tour is so good, very similar to the main Tour I would say, and it definitely helped me going out onto the DP World Tour and playing on harder courses. That mentality of battling was definitely great for my game. I just got better naturally playing with better players.

I wouldn’t say I am a massive goal setter but definitely since the PGA TOUR cards have become available it is definitely one big aim for everyone come the end of the year to have a chance to grab one of those. It’s certainly pretty cool for all of us to have that opportunity do so.

It might be over a year away but to play in The Open at Royal Portrush is definitely a big goal of mine. Obviously, I will be trying to qualify for it this year, but it would be pretty special to play in The Open at home, especially somewhere that is on our way from where I live and somewhere I played a lot of golf growing up would be pretty cool. To play in such an environment at a venue I have played at casually so often would be a great experience.

Tom McKibbin was speaking to the DP World Tour's Mathieu Wood.

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