Tom McKibbin flattered by Rory McIlroy comparisons and would love to emulate him

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Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent
·3-min read
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Tom McKibbin is keeping the advice he has received from Rory McIlroy close to his chest, but admits he would love to emulate some of the four-time major winner’s achievements.

McKibbin’s successful amateur career has inevitably led to comparisons with fellow Northern Irishman McIlroy, especially as the pair both hail from Holywood Golf Club just outside Belfast.

And after being “confused” at missing out on selection for the upcoming Walker Cup, McKibbin has followed in McIlroy’s footsteps by turning professional at the age of 18 and will make his debut in this week’s Tenerife Open.

Tom McKibbin
Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin during day two of The Irish Open at Galgorm Castle Golf Club, Ballymena (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It’s probably a massive compliment being compared to Rory McIlroy,” McKibbin said. “I’m obviously doing something right.

“I’d love to be winning majors and become world number one. That would be an awesome achievement. Those would be some long-term ambitions, to be the best.

“I’ve talked to Rory quite a bit, he’s given me his opinion and I’m probably just going to keep all that to myself. But he’s been great to me and I’m really thankful for that. It’s just awesome to be able to get to ask him questions and learn from him.

“I was always going to turn pro, but with me not making the Walker Cup team I decided to go a few weeks earlier. I was disappointed, not disappointed, a bit more confused to be totally honest.

“I was disappointed for a day. I don’t care now, it’s over with and I’m on to better things now.”

McKibbin has missed the cut in all six of his previous starts on the European Tour or Challenge Tour and admits he will need to sharpen up around the green to compete successfully in the paid ranks.

“I think the difference at this level of golf is they are all very good short-game players, putters and chippers. It’s a level higher,” the former world junior champion said.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy has given fellow Tom McKibbin advice ahead of his professional career (Kenny Smith/PA)

“I wouldn’t see much difference off tees in distance or iron play, (but) their short games are absolutely insane. That’ll be the main difference, getting that sharpened up and getting the putts rolling in. That’ll be the big key.

“Making the cut this week would be lovely. I’m going to commit to every shot, play the course the way I think I should play it and hopefully on Sunday we’ll have had four good rounds.

“I sort of did everything (at amateur level), I have no regrets.

“I tried over the last few years to schedule my amateur events like I was a professional. Play a few weeks in a row, take a few off, play a few more. I’ve been preparing for this sort of moment for the last few years.”