Tom McKibbin continues fightback in ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle as Daniel Brown maintains six-shot lead
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McKibbin shot an opening 78 at Galgorm on Thursday but fought back with a superb six-under-par 65 at Castlerock on Friday.
A 68 at Galgorm left the Holywood man on level par going into the final day and safely among the 40 players who made the 54-hole, which fell at three over.
England’s Daniel Brown maintained his six-shot lead to put himself on the brink of a maiden DP World Tour victory.
Brown is playing his rookie season on the the top-tier circuit at the age of 28 after spending his first years as a professional cutting his teeth on the satellite EuroPro Tour and second-tier Challenge Tour.
The world number 384 has enjoyed a successful debut campaign, making his first 13 cuts and achieving three top 10 but if he can convert the biggest 54-hole lead of the season into a win on day four, he will have his first victory in the paid ranks.
A 67 in round three at Galgorm Castle moved him to 14 under, with fellow Englishman Alex Fitzpatrick – brother of 2022 US Open champion Matt – and South Africa’s Wilco Nienaber the nearest challengers.
“Obviously, there’s still a good way to go yet,” said Brown. “But it’s nice to play well and keep that lead and make it a little bit more comfortable than I suppose it might be. Still one day to go.
“I’ve driven it really well, which tends to be my strength anyway. But I’ve seen around here the rough is pretty juicy in places, so that’s been important. It’s just all seemed to fit together for the vast majority of this week.
A bogey at the first saw Brown’s overnight lead trimmed but he was seven ahead after birdies on the second, sixth and eighth.
He dropped a shot on the 10th but a stunning approach to two feet at the 16th and a two-putt birdie on the par-five last put him in total command.
Fitzpatrick – a recent winner on the Challenge Tour – matched Brown’s 67, while Nienaber carded a 63 that included six birdies in seven holes from the 10th.
Spanish Ryder Cup hopeful Adrian Otaegui was seven shots off the lead, one ahead of England’s John Parry.
Englishwoman Gabriella Cowley will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the women’s event after a 67 left her at six under, with American Ryann O’Toole and German Esther Henseleit the nearest challengers.
Ireland’s Leona Maguire shot a 71 as her hopes continued to fade, while Jordanstown woman Stephanie Meadow is also eight off the pace in a share of
21st spot with Maguire after a 72.