Tuesday, May 28, 2024

McKibbin and Purcell record top tens to move up rankings – News – Irish Golf Desk

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Tom McKibbin and Conor Purcell continue to fly the flag for Irish golf after recording top 10 finishes in Japan and Abu Dhabi.

Holywood star McKibbin recorded his third top ten of the season when he closed with a five-under 65 to finish seventh in the ISPS Handa Championship at Taiheiyo Club Gotemba.

The Newtownabbey talent (21) birdied his first five holes and picked up another shot at the ninth to turn in 29 before playing the back nine in one over and move up seven places to 20th in the Race to Dubai and into contention for one of ten PGA Tour cards.

At 11-under, he finished six strokes behind Yuto Katsuragawa, who continued a historic season for Japaneses players from Japan on the DP World Tour by claiming a three-shot victory.

He started the final round three shots off the lead and after going to the turn in two-under, he birdied five of his first seven holes on the back nine to card a bogey-free course record equalling 63 that left him three clear of Sweden’s Sebastian Söderberg.

“I have been practising a lot to stand on the big stage,” said  Katsuragawa, who became the third Japanese player to win on the DP World Tour in the past seven months.

“I knew that if I won this tournament I could get an exemption onto the DP World Tour, which is really great. In the end I got the win and I am very happy about it.

“I did not show nerves but actually it was the opposite, I was very nervous on the back nine. My hands were shaking! But I trusted myself and I managed to bring my best golf.

“I knew that if I could get into the top ten on the DP World Tour (at the end of the season) I could also go onto the PGA TOUR, so yes I will become a DP World Tour now and I aim to be a PGA TOUR member in the future.”

The emergence of new international stars partly explains the diminishing Irish presence on the DP World Tour.

But Purcell is on track for promotion from the Challenge Tour to the main tour after he closed with a three-under 69 to clinch his second successive top ten finish in the UAE Challenge in Abu Dhabi.

The former Walker Cup star (26) made an eagle from over 100 feet at the 15th as well as four birdies at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club to finish tied for seventh on 10-under, just four shots behind Denmark’s Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen.

As a result, Purcell jumped seven places to 17th in the Road to Mallorca rankings with the top 20 at the end of the season awarded DP World Tour cards.

“It’s been a solid two weeks out here,” said Purcell, who was fourth in the Abu Dhabi Challenge the previous week.

“It was nice to string a few rounds together after struggling a little bit on weekends from time to time, throwing in a bad round either Saturday or Sunday.

“It was nice to keep pushing up the leaderboard especially this week and it’s always nice to climb up the rankings and carry forward some nice momentum for the European swing that’s coming up.

“I’m looking forward to working on the same things and trying to keep going up the rankings by putting a few results on the board.”

Neergaard-Petersen secured his second Challenge Tour title in three events when he fired seven birdies in a five under 67 to win by a shot from South Africa’s Wilco Nienaber on 14-under and extend his lead at the top of the Road to Mallorca rankings.

Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy shot 70 to finish tied 25th on six-under with Gary Hurley a shot further back in 36th after a 72.

At the LET’s Investec SA Women’s Open, Olivia Mehaffey closed with a one-under 71 to finish tied for 44th on four-over behind the winner, Belgium’s Manon De Roey.

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