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Tom McKibbin holds one-shot lead after spotless 64

Tom McKibbin holds one-shot lead after spotless 64

Tom McKibbin produced a flawless 64 in the first round of the 2023 Singapore Classic to lead the way by one shot.

The European Challenge Tour graduate, who started from the tenth tee on Thursday morning, carded three birdies on his front nine before coming home in 30 to reach eight under par.

The 20-year-old's back nine featured a hat-trick of gains from the second and ended with a monster birdie putt from the fringe at the ninth.

McKibbin, who hails from the same part of Northern Ireland as World Number One Rory McIlroy, briefly had company at the top of the leaderboard, but Matthieu Pavon and Sami Välimäki both dropped a shot late in their first rounds to slip back to seven under.

Frenchman Pavon and Finn Välimäki were alongside Swedes Joakim Lagergren and Simon Forsström in a four-way tie for second after 18 holes.

Chinese amateur Ding Wenyi, 18, sat another shot back after his 66, along with Englishmen Paul Waring and Nathan Kimsey.

McKibbin began his round with a par on the tenth before taking advantage of the short 11th for his first birdie of the day.

Further gains followed at the 13th and 18th - two of the three par fives on the back nine - as McKibbin turned in 34.

Three successive birdies at the second, third and fourth took the Northern Irishman to six under before he rolled in from around ten feet on the seventh to pick up another shot there.

And he finished his round in style, draining a lengthy putt from the fringe for his eighth birdie of the day to set the clubhouse target at eight under.

Reflecting on his opening round, McKibbin said: "A very good day. I navigated the course well, eight birdies and no bogeys is a nice way to start.

"I played nicely last week, a few bad holes here and there, so it’s nice to continue that nice form I had last week.

"Life’s pretty nice if you’re playing well, it’s different if you’re not. I’m enjoying it. I’ve played enough of these events that it feels normal to me now, but it’s great fun."

McIlroy and McKibbin

McKibbin feels the time he has spent with McIlroy has been valuable as he bids to build on a strong start to his career.

He added: "I’ve played with Rory quite a bit, I’ve been able to watch him and playing with him has been valuable for me to see where my game is at. 

"It’s been good for me to have some moments with him."

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