Højgaard fights for a resounding victory in Ras Al Khaimah – Articles
Nicolai Højgaard claimed his second DP World Tour title after fending off Jordan Smith in a rollercoaster final at the 2022 Ras al Khaimah Championship Presented by Phoenix Capital to win by four strokes.
Overnight leader Højgaard’s resilience was tested when he stumbled into the corner and saw a five-stroke lead evaporate before finding himself two strokes behind a charging Smith on the nine back.
But he showed exceptional determination over the closing holes, bouncing back with a birdie on the 13th before producing an exceptional eagle the next to open a two-stroke lead.
And from there he was able to cruise to victory, adding two more birdies on the way back to sign for a closing 68 and end the week at 24 under par.
He now has two DP World Tour crowns to his name following last year’s DS Automobiles Italian Open triumph, and is just one win behind his twin brother Rasmus.
Smith, who started the day six shots off the lead, finished alone in second with 20 under, three ahead of Li Haotong, Lukas Nemecz, Matthieu Pavon and Adrian Otaegui tied for third. Li’s bogey-free 63 saw him equal the course record at Al Hamra Golf Club.
Højgaard appeared to be marching to victory at the start of day four after extending his advantage overnight from three to five strokes with an eagle at long third, which was inches away from being an albatross.
But as the Dane began to falter, with a double bogey in the ninth that reduced his lead to one stroke at the corner, Smith found his best form and took over at the top.
While Smith netted a hat-trick in the 12th, 13th and 14th to take his birdie tally for the day to seven, Højgaard dropped another shot in the 12th after his tee shot landed in the penalty area at the Waterside.
It gave Smith, who was three groups ahead of Højgaard, a two-stroke lead on 21 under, but the Englishman surrendered his first bogey of the day on the 15th after his 21-foot par putt avoided de just the hole.
And with Højgaard birdie from close range in the 13th to come back to 20 under, he again took a share of the lead, with two par fives to come.
Højgaard regained full control after hitting a shot-of-the-week competitor in the par-five 14th, sending his second shot from a waste zone inside ten feet before rolling in his eagle effort to jump to 22 under and open a two – lead sinker.
And with Smith unable to close the gap on the 17th and 18th, Højgaard only extended his lead with birdies on the final two holes.
After taking the win, Højgaard said: “It’s very nice. It was so tough today. I had a good start and then I struggled a lot.
“I had to dig deep there and the turning point was obviously the 13 where I saw that Jordan Smith had made a run and was in two when I was on the green at 13, and I stepped up with a clutch finish so I’m really happy.
“I thought I was ruining the tournament when I did a double bogey and a bogey at 12. So I had to dig deep and my good friend Christian on the sack he did a brilliant job of keeping me focused and motivated for the finish and it went rather well.
“I’m pretty excited for the future now. I don’t really think about it, but obviously when you’re playing well you start looking at all the rankings. I’m motivated to keep going and improving and hopefully quality for major tournaments.”
Smith, winner of this course at Ras Al Khaimah, Golf Challenge 2016 on the Challenge Tour, said: “I feel really, really good this year.
“I’m happy with the changes I’ve made, I’m really happy with the work I’ve done off and on the course, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the year.”