Ryder Cup star Nicolai Hojgaard’s good level of play continues with the young Dane one of three leaders after the first round of the DP World Tour Championship.
The 22-year-old Hojgaard finished second at Sun City last weekend and has his sights set on victory this week in the United Arab Emirates in the final tournament of the European Series’ 2022-23 season.
Hojgaard completed Thursday’s first 18 holes on the Jumeriah Estate’s championship course in 67 strokes – five under par – to end the day as the joint leader.
The Danish no. 1 player finished the first nine even on 36, after which he caught fire and scored five birdies over six holes to underline his talents with a score of 31 (-5) over the second nine.
Hojgaard was in good spirits with his second place on Sunday at the Pilanesberg gambling city, but yearns for a victory to finish his European golf season on an excellent note.
“I really hit the ball well today (Thursday) and especially my groundstrokes were great.
“I can’t complain about my putting either. Although I missed one or two chances, overall I was solid and am still satisfied.
“I want to end the season on a high note. At Sun City and during the Ryder Cup, I learned a lot playing with and against some of the world’s best.
“However, I want to beat the best when I compete against them and that is the goal this week,” Hojgaard said after the first day’s play.
Two Frenchmen, Matthieu Pavon and Julien Guerrier, set the pace with Hojgaard on 67, with the trio of Jens Dantorp, Adrian Meronk and Antoine Rozner on 68 in joint fourth position.
Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland, Robert Macintyre and Tom Kim share seventh place at -3.
South Africa’s only two representatives in the Tour Championship, Zander Lombard and Thriston Lawrence, both recorded scores of 71 (-1) and share the fifteenth position.
Lombard was more consistent than Lawrence and filled in two birdies and a bogey on his scorecard. Lawrence recorded four birdies and three bogeys.
Lombard (32nd) and Lawrence (25) are both among the top 60 players on the Race to Dubai standings who have qualified for the season’s final tournament.
The Irish Rory McIlroy, who kicked off his week with a 71 (-1), can no longer be held back from the first position in the Race to Dubai race.
He finds himself in an uncontested position at the top of the standings and will officially be the European series’ no. 1 player is crowned regardless of where he finishes.
McIlroy resigned this week as a board member of the American PGA Series so that he can better focus on his game.
The Jumeirah course is one of his favorite courses and at -1 he is firmly placed and unconcerned about his four-shot deficit.
The Irishman said he would also like to win the Tour Championship title along with the crown as Europe’s top player, which he has already won with his good play throughout the season.
The Spaniard Jon Rahm, the world’s no. 3-player and last year’s Tour Championship winner, started with a 72 and will have to play better if he wants to stand on the top step of the podium again.
*In the US PGA Series’ RSM Classic in Sea Island, Georgia, Eric Cole sets the pace with Cameron Young and Davis Thompson.
The trio posted scores of 66 (-6) on the first day before poor light ended play early.
Cole is the son of SA golf star Bobby Cole, who moved to America in the 80s.
Cole Sr. won the Buick Open on the PGA Series in 1974 and is a two-time SA Open champion.
With a score of 69, the South African MJ Daffue surpassed the course mark of 70, but occupies the 63rd position and will have to be at his best on Friday if he wants to escape the cut-off mark.
*South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai holds the thirteenth position after the first round of the CME Championship in Naples in Florida.
Buhai recorded a score of 68 (-4) on the Tiburon course on the first day of the LPGA Series’ final tournament of the season.
The SA golf star was consistent and scored two birdies on both nines in a faultless performance in the tournament in which only the top 60 players on the CME leaderboard are in action.
The leaders after the first day are Japan’s Naka Hataoka and China’s Ruoning Yin, who both produced outstanding performances of 63 (-9).
The Aussie Minjee Lee is in third position on 64 (-8) with the Swede Anna Nordqvist on 65 in fourth place.
Women’s golf’s new no. 1 player, American Lilia Vu, played 70 shots (-2).
- Additional sources: PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, DP World Tour