Tom McKibbin ticks a few things off the bucket list at his first Major

Northern Irish golfer (21) paired with world number one Scottie Scheffler for final round in US Open at Pinehurst

Scottie Scheffler and Tom McKibbin on the seventh hole during the final round of the 2024 US Open at Pinehurst on Sunday. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images

Tom McKibbin didn’t have to wait until the first tee for a maiden introduction to world number one Scottie Scheffler. One of the fringe benefits of having veteran caddie Dave McNeilly on the bag is that he seems to know everyone – one of them being Scheffler’s bagman Ted Scott.

So it was that the formalities between the players took place in the locker room to the sort of laughter that so often accompanies McNeilly, and it all made for a very relaxed final-round pairing of this 124th US Open at Pinehurst No 2 for the man ranked number one and the player – at 21 years of age, making his Major debut – ranked 145th.

Yet, the two players signed for identical 72s to finish to be tied together on eight-over-par 288 in 42nd place when the final putts on the 18th green were rolled in, at exactly the same time as the final pairing of Bryson DeChambeau and Matthieu Pavon were announced and also when a loud roar drifted up from the first green where Rory McIlroy rolled in a birdie putt to start.

And Shane Lowry – his head in tatters just a week earlier after a closing 85 in the Memorial – to his credit turned things around brilliantly, closing with a 25-footer for birdie on the 18th for a final round 69 for 284, four-over, which moved him inside the top-20.


In the case of McKibbin, this week provided another step on a learning curve which he has taken to like a duck would to water. A Tuesday practice round with Rory McIlroy. A first sight of seeing Tiger Woods in the flesh hitting shots. And, to top it all, a final round with Scheffler and a strong Major debut to boot, before he shifts back to the DP World Tour for tournaments in the Netherlands and Italy in the coming weeks.

The stuff of boyhood dreams for McKibbin, materialising in his still-fledgling professional career as he seeks to add to a CV that already features a win on the DP World Tour in last year’s Porsche European Open.

“It was obviously a great day to play with Scottie, who has arguably been the best player in the world in the last couple of years, and to see how he plays around such a difficult course. It was just a great day,” said McKibbin, who identified his iron play as an area for improvement, adding: “I’m pretty happy with how I handled it. I could have got carried away and shot a big number but, no, I played very solid and he is probably one of the nicest guys I have played with so that made it quite easy.”

Certainly, the whole experience gave McKibbin a taste of what Major golf is all about and he wants more of it, hoping to qualify for next month’s 152nd Open at Royal Troon, and to get more experience for the years ahead of him. As McKibbin put it of future hopes, “If I have more experience and tidy some things up I can climb the leader boards a little bit. Give me some time, maybe [to win].”

While McKibbin’s first time at a Majors sent him away wanting more, Lowry’s resilience after the travails of the Memorial once again showcased his big-time mentality. He is a tough cookie, for sure. A final round which included a double-bogey five on the ninth for Lowry – where his tee shot hit the green only to be rejected back down the slope, and for his pitch to then go into reverse and slide into a greenside bunker – was one where he generally hit the ball beautifully and mustered five birdies, including that finishing putt on the final green.

“Nine was a killer,” he said. “It’s looking like a top-20, some nice FedEx Cup points which is pretty good. So, I am happy ... to shoot 85 in Memorial, I mean to come out and play the golf I played this week I thought was pretty good and showed who I am and what I am about.

“Obviously, I would prefer to have been contending there but if you look at the numbers I’m not too far away, not a million miles away from the winning score or a top-5 this week score-wise. So, there’s plenty of positives to take away. I putted unbelievable this week, as good as I have all year I think, and I keep coming to these places and feel like I am comfortable playing these tournaments.

“I know what I have and know what I have to play with and I know what my limitations are. I go out there and try my best day-in and day-out, and this week it is going to be somewhere around 20th, last week wasn’t very good and hopefully next week [in the Travelers] will be better,” said Lowry.

Lowry will this coming week complete a four-week stretch at the Travelers, one of the PGA Tour signature events, and then has three weeks off – dearly looking forward to being reunited with his family back home in Dublin – before building up to the Open at Royal Troon.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times