Dubai teen Josh Hill fires two grandstand finishes to make history in Abu Dhabi

Englishman enjoys long but brilliant Saturday to 'prove I can compete' on DP World Tour

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By now, it should be pretty clear that Josh Hill is not your average 17-year-old.

For a start, the Dubai-born English teenager is already in the history books, having become the youngest winner of an Official Golf World Ranking event, when he triumphed on the Mena Tour in 2019. Back then, he was the ripe old age of 15.

This week, Hill is contesting his third tournament on Europe’s lead professional golf tour while still an amateur, making his second appearance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Returning to Yas Links early on Saturday to finish his delayed second round, Hill had six holes to pick up three shots and rescue his tournament. So he promptly birdied three of the final four to make the cut, right on the mark, at 3-over.

History made – again – as the first UAE-born player to secure all four rounds at the event, Hill could not bask in another notable notch on his swelling CV. He had another round on the DP World Tour to play. Thank goodness, then, for a pushy pal.

“I sort of got force-fed by one of my mates, just to make sure I was energised,” Hill said. “Then just chilled for a bit and went and warmed up like I normally do. So wasn’t much different.”

The dietary boost must have helped, if its affect was not immediately detectable. Hill arrived at the turn in his third round on 2-over having traded three birdies for two double-bogeys and a bogey. But a lengthy putt for birdie on his 14th hole set up another grandstand finish.

Hill blitzed his way home, with three birdies and an eagle in his closing five holes. His last bit of work for the day, just as the sun was setting behind the ninth green on which he stood, was to roll in a putt for a birdie, thus signing for a 3-under 69 to climb to level for the tournament. Scott Jamieson leads the pack, on 11-under.

Asked afterwards if he was not shattered, given the long day out competing against, at times the elements, but also the cream of the DP World Tour, Hill sounded anything but a 17-year-old.

“I’m alright. I mean, I’m in the gym at 5am every day which helps,” he said, as if that was a perfectly normal teenage trait. “I think just doing that, not only the gym but waking up at 5am, has got me set on that time now. So I’m OK.”

His performance was much more than OK. It included a “lovely 7-iron” to four foot for birdie on 15, a momentum-saving par putt on 16, and another deadeye 7-iron on the par-3 17th that “my dad said almost went in”.

Birdie secure, Hill required another on 18 to hang around for the rest of the weekend. A driver, 3-wood and “a bit of a thinned chip” left him with a nerve-jangling 10-footer. Hill coolly rolled that in to survive.

“I had an absolute nightmare of a day yesterday,” he said of a second round in which he went out in 7-over for the front nine, played it must be said in 30 mile-per-hour winds. “But I got off the course and didn’t expect to see that I was three back of the cut, and six holes to play.

“I didn’t know what the weather was going to be like, but I thought I could get that back. Hit some great shots down the last four holes, made three birdies and that was the cut made. And then went out today just free flowing, made some silly errors, but also hit some great shots and put together a good round.”

Yet, apparently, making a first cut on the DP World Tour still hadn’t sunk in. There was no time for that, Hill said, what with another round to contest – he goes out on Sunday with Denmark’s Joachim B Hansen and New Zealand’s Ryan Fox - and then a late entry to next week’s Dubai Desert Classic just confirmed, too.

“I always feel I can compete with these guys, and I feel I’ve proven that in these three rounds,” Hill said. “It felt good [to make the cut], but I also felt it was coming. To come back and clutch it up like that was good.

“But I still had 18 holes to play. So had a bit of breakfast and came back out.”

Updated: January 22, 2022, 3:48 PM