Rory McIlroy says fellow Holywood player Tom McKibbin has a “bright future’ after winning a first DP World Tour title at the European Open.
Twenty-year-old McKibbin spoke of the crucial roll the four-time major winner McIlroy played in securing his his maiden tour victory.
“I’ve known Tom since he was 10 – to see him progressing and getting a first win is really cool,” said McIlroy.
“I’m so happy and so proud of him. At just 20 he showed so much composure.”
“We’ve all known from back home the potential he has,” the world number three told the DP World Tour.
“To break through and win in Europe for the first time at 20 shows there’s a bright future ahead of him.”
McKibbin hails from the same Holywood club in Northern Ireland where McIlroy learned his golf.
“I probably wouldn’t be here right now if he hadn’t helped me along the way,” McKibbin told BBC Radio Ulster.
“He’s been amazing with me. I’ve been very fortunate to spend a lot of time with him and be in his presence.”
McKibbin revealed that McIlroy had sent him a message of congratulations prior to beginning his own final round at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio, where he eventually finished in a share of seventh place after a disappointing 75.
“He said ‘well done’, and that he was very proud of me, and that he was watching out there on the TV so that was pretty cool,” he added.
“I’ve got to play with him a good few times, pick his brain a bit and ask him things. He’s been definitely very helpful to me.”
McKibbin’s win moved him up 173 positions in the world rankings to 162nd – 159 spots below his fellow Holywood man – and rocketed him to 23rd in the 2023 Race to Dubai standings as he pocketed over £292,000.
Victory also ensures McKibbin entry into this season’s lucrative Rolex series events as well as guaranteeing his DP World Tour playing rights for 2024.
The Northern Irish player clinched victory in hugely impressive style by hitting a glorious second shot at the 72nd hole as his high draw around a tall tree set up a decisive birdie which secured a two-stroke win over France’s Julien Guerrier and German duo Maximilian Kieffer and Marcel Siem.
Proud father Robin was in Hamburg to witness McKibbin’s victory, with the Northern Ireland dimension to the victory rounded off by Belfast man and veteran caddie Dave McNeely – whose previous bosses have included Sir Nick Faldo, Nick Price and Padraig Harrington – being on the winner’s bag in the northern German city.
“Dad was here and he was obviously loving it. [It] Took me a good hour and a half to speak to my mum [though]. There was a lot of stuff going on,” said McKibbin on Monday morning, as he was about to board a flight from Hamburg en route to his arrival home later in the day.
“We got back to the hotel about 8.30pm and just chilled out and had dinner and just talked.”
McKibbin turned professional in 2021 after being a surprise omission from the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team.
His success-filled boys golf career included winning the Junior Honda Classic as a 12-year-old and he clinched his full tour card in Majorca last November.