Tom McKibbin wants Hamburg defence to provide perfect preparation for US Open

Tom McKibbin won his first DP World Tour title at the Porsche European Open in Hamburg
Tom McKibbin won his first DP World Tour title at the Porsche European Open in Hamburg

Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin hopes his European Open title defence will provide the perfect “mental battle” as he prepares to make his major championship debut.

McKibbin was one of nine players to come through the recent 36-hole qualifying event for next month’s US Open, scores of 69 and 67 at Walton Heath booking his place at Pinehurst for the year’s third major.

The 21-year-old will travel to North Carolina following a return to Green Eagle Golf Courses in Hamburg, where he produced a stunning approach to the final hole 12 months ago to seal his maiden DP World Tour title in style.

“Pinehurst is obviously a very difficult golf course so really looking forward to it,” McKibbin said.

“This week could actually be a good test for it because here is very, very hard. I sort of forgot how hard the course is. It’s a very long golf course, very challenging off the tee, so long and straight is probably a good combo.

“It was a lot warmer last year and the ball sort of got a bit of run on the fairways. So, it’s playing a lot longer this year so I think driving will be very, very big again.

“I am very excited just to get over there [to America] to play and to see where my game is at. So this week should sort of get me into that mental state of battling it out.”

World number 84 Keita Nakajima is the highest ranked player in the field, with Ramus Hojgaard (92nd) and Jordan Smith (98th) the only other members of the top 100 competing in Hamburg.

“I always enjoy coming here to play,” Hojgaard said. “I haven’t done very well in the past, but hopefully I can turn that around this week.

“It’s a course where you can make birdies out there, but at the same time it’s easy to play 10, 12, 13 holes without seeing a birdie out there. It can be a tricky golf course. The winning score is never that low.

“There’s typically always a low first round score and you end up thinking the score is going to be 15 or 20 under, but it I don’t think we’ve seen that in the last few years. So I think patience is going to be one of the keys this week.”