Tom McKibbin produced another fantastic Friday to surge into contention at the weather-delayed SDC Championship.
The Newtownabbey star (20) followed an opening 76 by making an eagle and six birdies in a seven-under 65 to soar from 100th to tied 16th on three-under par on St Patrick’s Day.
He’s just five shots behind French star Julien Brun, who carded a second-round 67 to hit the front before strong winds wiped out much of the afternoon’s play in South Africa.
The Antrim star’s Friday comeback was no real surprise given he made five cuts on the Challenge Tour last year despite shooting over par in the first round and went on to win his DP World Tour card.
“My iron play was key today,” admitted McKibbin, who turned in level-par before racing home in seven-under 29 on St Francis Links in Eastern Cape. “The weather was better than yesterday, but it was still windy.”
The former amateur international hit the ball so well from tee to green that he didn’t have to hole a huge amount of footage on the greens.
He birdied the 10th and 12th, then ripped a seven-iron to four feet to set up an eagle three at the 13th to get back to level for the tournament before following birdie twos at the 14th and 17th with a closing birdie.
“My driving and irons were good today, but I didn’t make a putt over eight feet and missed three putts inside seven feet,” revealed McKibbin, who is 72nd in the Race to Dubai after racking up four top-20 finishes in his first nine starts. Brun (30) made seven birdies in his 67 to set the clubhouse target at eight-under par before high winds caused play to be suspended just before 2pm local time.
“Very different,” Brun said of the conditions. “It’s the first time for me that I’ve seen the course without wind. It was definitely a lot more receptive, and the greens were better as well, so you could make more birdies and just have more fun out there.”
He ended the day one stroke ahead of home favourite Albert Venter and Englishman Matthew Baldwin, who also shot 67s, and Swede Jens Dantorp, who made ten birdies in a nine-under 63.
At the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship, world No 143 Adam Schenk (31) added a 69 to his opening 67 to lead by a shot in the clubhouse from compatriot Kramer Hickok on seven-under par as he seeks his maiden tour win at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood was a shot further back after a 69, tied third with Coby Gribble who shot 65.
Meanwhile, West Waterford’s Séamus Power is keen to join Rory McIlroy in the Horizon Irish Open at The K Club from September 7-10.
He described last year’s event at Mount Juliet as “one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever played golf in.”