Nicolai Hojgaard mounts stunning late charge to win DP World Tour Championship

Dane holds off challenge of Ryder Cup teammates Fleetwood and Hovland in Dubai

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Nicolai Hojgaard closed the DP World Tour Championship on Sunday with a superb 64, giving him the clubhouse lead with only two groups still on the Earth Course, and pulled his cap down over his face in disgust.

Bent double, he rested his hands on his knees, straightened then shook his head, and made a beeline for the scorer’s hut where he continued to beat himself up.

Hojgaard, who began the final round of the season-ending event three off the lead, had missed a short putt on the 18th, halting his birdie blitz on the Earth Course at five on the bounce.

The 8-under par hoisted him to a 21-under par total, but with Tommy Fleetwood one shot back on the hole behind and with the par-5 closer to come, Hojgaard steeled himself for a play-off.

Had that putt have dropped, he chastised, his chances of the biggest win of a still-embryonic professional career would have been markedly more favourable.

Yet Fleetwood three-putted 17 to drop two back, meaning he, Viktor Hovland and overnight leader Matt Wallace all required eagle on the last to force a play-off. All three made pars.

Hojgaard, only 22, had won it. A third DP World Tour title, not to mention a cool $3 million, was his.

It means a lot,” the Dane said afterwards. “It's the sweetest one. So much hard work’s been put in the last couple years, and this year has been a really good year.

“The only thing missing was a win, and to get it this week, this field, is unbelievable. I can't believe it's just happened.

“Because I was so focused on the job on the golf course, and understanding on 18, having a putt to close it out and it slips by, it was quite a tough moment for me. 'Did I just let it slip away now and do we have to go to a play-off?’”

Thankfully for him, they didn’t.

“This feels amazing,” Hojgaard said. “I've got family here; this one is for them. Everything they put in over the years; there's so much hard work going into this. For it to happen like this is unbelievable.”

Indeed, once the win was finally confirmed, mum and dad were there to hold Hojgaard tight; twin and fellow pro Rasmus, too, and mentor Thomas Bjorn.

Rasmus had not long before parred 18 to miss out by a whisker on the top 10 and thus his PGA Tour card for next season. Nicolai, however, had his.

“I know for my brother, he tried everything he had today,” Nicolai said. “I'm glad I didn't have that on the line today because of extra pressure. The only thing I had on my mind was to finish No 1.

"Sitting here now is very, very special.”

Standing on the 13th tee, Hojgaard presumably believed his chances were slipping by. He bogeyed 12 to fall two off the lead, held then by Fleetwood, a former Race to Dubai champion and current Jumeirah Golf Estates resident.

From there, Hojgaard played what he labelled some of the best golf in his life.

It's up there, yeah,” he said. “It came in stretches this week. It's probably the best golf I've played in a tournament because this is the strongest field of my three wins.

“To finish it out like this is pretty cool.”

Seeing off Fleetwood, world No 4 Hovland, Wallace, and the likes of world No 2 Rory McIlroy (tied 22nd) and No 3 Jon Rahm (tied 5th), must have been “pretty cool” all right.

With the win, Hojgaard concluded the season second only to McIlroy in the Race to Dubai. He vaulted to a career-high No 50 in the global rankings.

Stay there for a few more weeks, and spots in next year’s majors are secure.

I was hoping to make a run the last two weeks to get close to the top 50, so to finish out like this [he was second last week in South Africa], it doesn't mean it's guaranteed, but this is the sweetest way to finish the year.

“I can't believe we finished on such a high note. Definitely going to enjoy this.”

Updated: November 19, 2023, 6:58 PM