Tom McKibbin at the Irish Open in Ballymena, in September 2020. INPHO/TOMMY DICKSON

Youth wasn’t served in South Africa

At 19 years of age, Tom McKibbin has a lot to learn about making a career in professional golf. Hopefully, he picked up some valuable lessons after finishing joint-third in the Challenge Tour’s Cape Town Open in South Africa.            

McKibbin opened well enough with a bogey-free 68 but went into overdrive on Friday, when he birdied the first seven holes en route to 62 and a three-shot lead. The only disconcerting note came at 18, where he missed an easy birdie putt and settled for par.

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The birdies were fewer and farther between over the weekend, when he totaled only six, while the bogeys crept onto his cards – one on Saturday and four on Sunday. Yet, he maintained a two-stroke lead going into Sunday’s final round.

Bogeys at the third and fourth holes on Sunday opened the door for others to join McKibbin atop the leaderboard. He was hard-pressed to forestall defending champion J.C. Ritchie, who repeated here, winning by a stroke as McKibbin and two others clustered three strokes behind.

The reason for McKibbin’s implosion? He simply didn’t execute when he needed to. Royal Cape Golf Club wasn’t playing especially tough; He was one of only two golfers who finished in the top 35 to record scores above par on Sunday.

While not in the spotlight’s glare, Niall Kearney also got a lot less than he was angling for on Sunday. Having opened with rounds of 67, 71 and 71, he was surging up the leaderboard, posting four birdies in a span of eight holes, with dead aim on a top-10 finish. That hope soon vanished with bogey at 13 and double bogey at 14. Yet another 71 entitled him to a share of 29th place, 10 strokes behind Ritchie.

Then there’s Paul Dunne. He shot a sterling 66 on Thursday to stand a stroke off the lead. That form was nowhere evident on Friday and Saturday, each of which resulted in a round of 73. He recovered somewhat on Sunday, when he shot 69 to finish tied for 36th place, 11 strokes off Ritchie’s winning score.

John Murphy and Cormac Sharvin signed to rounds of 71 on Thursday and 70 on Friday, leaving them both one stroke on the wrong side of the cut line. Gavin Moynihan, likewise, had the weekend off, having shot 74 and 75.

The Irish sextet remains in South Africa for this week’s Jonsson Workwear Open in Durban, where they will be joined by Robin Dawson.


Rory McIlroy kept a low profile while staking out position in the top 10 at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. He combined rounds of 69, 70, 67 and 68, leaving a gap of nine strokes between him and runaway victor Joaquin Niemann.

“Quietly solid,” is how McIlroy described his tournament. “I shot four rounds under par. My game’s close. I’m happy with my week.”

Seamus Power missed his second straight cut. An opening 70 gave way to 74, in which three consecutive bogeys early in the round proved lethal.

McIlroy and Power are giving this week’s Honda Classic a pass as the Tour shifts to Florida. Past champion Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry will be in Palm Beach Gardens to lend an Irish flair.