DP World Tour Championship: Nicolai Hojgaard holds off Ryder Cup team-mates to win Dubai thriller

November 19, 2023

Nicolai Hojgaard produced a sensational back-nine birdie run to hold off Ryder Cup team-mates Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland and claim a dramatic victory at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

Hojgaard overturned a three-stroke deficit during a thrilling final round at Jumeirah Golf Estates, where he fired five consecutive birdies from the 13th to card an eight-under 64 and set the clubhouse target at 21 under.

The birdie burst pulled the 22-year-old ahead of Hovland, Fleetwood and overnight leader Matt Wallace, who all required a final-hole eagle to match the Dane's total and force a play-off.

Hovland could only scramble a closing par after finding the hazard with his approach into the par-five last and Wallace found water off the tee, with Hojgaard's third DP World Tour victory confirmed when Fleetwood was unable to hole his third shot from the fairway.

The chasing trio all carded closing pars to end the week in tied-second on 19 under, with defending champion Jon Rahm sharing fifth after a final-round 66 and Race to Dubai winner Rory McIlroy signing off his season in tied-22nd after a two-under 70.

How Hojgaard prevailed in epic finale

Fleetwood started the day one adrift but immediately jumped two clear when he followed an eight-foot birdie at the first by pouring in from 40 feet to eagle the par-five next, as Hovland cancelled out a birdie at the second with a bogey at the next to fall three behind.

The Englishman failed to get up and down from the sand to save par at the fourth, allowing Hojgaard - the halfway leader - to get within one when he also picked up a shot at the second and fired back-to-back gains from the fifth.

Wallace ended a run of pars with a 40-foot birdie at the sixth to pull level with Fleetwood but bogeyed the next after a wayward drive resulted in a penalty drop, while Hovland rolled in from 15 feet at the fifth and posted successive birdies from the seventh to edge into the solo lead on 18 under.

Hovland lost his outright advantage with a bogey at the ninth, with Hojgaard temporarily restoring a three-way tie after he followed a front-nine 33 with a birdie to start his back nine, then Fleetwood made a close-range birdie at the 10th to reclaim top spot.

Fleetwood left himself a similar birdie at the 11th to double his advantage, but Hojgaard charged back into contention when he cancelled out a dropped shot at the 12th by converting from eight feet at the 13th and two-putting from 35 feet to add another birdie at the par-five next.

Rahm bolstered his hopes of a historic fourth DP World Tour Championship win when he made three birdies in a four-hole stretch from the seventh and registered three in a row from the 13th, taking him to within two strokes, as Hovland added to his birdie tally at the 14th to get within one.

Hojgaard continued his birdie streak over the next two holes and added another from four feet at the par-three 17th, his fifth in a row, to restore his one-shot lead after Fleetwood had briefly levelled by slotting in from 15 feet at the 15th.

Hovland kept his hopes alive with birdies at the 14th and 16th as Wallace also impressed late on with three birdies in a four-hole stretch, including from 30 feet at the par-three 17th as Fleetwood three-putted for bogey.

Hojgaard gave hope to the field with a close-range birdie miss at the last, leaving the chasing trio requiring a final-hole eagle to force a play-off, but all three could only finish with a par as they finished two back.

Rahm shared fifth spot on 17 under alongside Mathieu Pavon - who birdied his last four holes - and Thriston Lawrence, who claimed a three-birdie finish, with Victor Perez a further stroke back in eighth after five birdies in his last eight holes.

Hojgaard proud of 'unbelievable win'

Hojgaard's victory is his first on the DP World Tour since February 2022 and is set to move him inside the world's top 50, while also seeing him end the campaign second in the season-long Race to Dubai standings.

"It's the sweetest one and so much hard work has been put in the last couple of years - and this year has been a really good year," Hojgaard said. "I felt like the only thing that was missing was a win and to get it this week in this field is unbelievable. I can't believe it's just happened.

"Having that putt on 18 to close it out and it slips by, I felt like it was quite a tough moment for me actually. I was like, 'Did it just slip away? Do we have to go in a play-off?' But we regrouped and took it a bit easy. This feels amazing.

"I have to say this is probably the best golf I've played in a tournament because this is the strongest field in my three wins. I'm definitely going to enjoy this."

What's next?

There's less than 96 hours between the 2023 Race to Dubai season finishing and the 2024 campaign starting, with co-sanctioned events in both Australia and South Africa live on Sky Sports.

The Fortinet Australian PGA Championship is live on Thursday from 1.30am on Sky Sports Golf, with the Joburg Open then on from 10am. Stream the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour and more with NOW.

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