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Golf: Hojgaard clinches maiden Rolex Series title; McIlroy wins Race to Dubai

IANS | November 20, 2023 05:07 PM

DUBAI: Nicolai Hojgaard won his first Rolex Series title as a back-nine birdie barrage saw him sign for a closing 64 and a two-shot victory at the DP World Tour Championship.

The Dane had led after days one and two at Jumeirah Golf Estates but entered the final round three shots off the pace before pulling himself right into contention with a front nine of 33.

He was back on top with a gain on the tenth and then reeled off five birdies in a row from the 13th to get to 21 under and hold off the challenge of his Ryder Cup team-mates Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland and overnight leader Matt Wallace.

Højgaard finished fourth over the Earth Course in his only previous appearance at this event in 2021, catapulting himself into the top ten on that season's final Rankings and he will finish 2023 second behind Race to Dubai champion Rory McIlroy.

While becoming an international player and starting his career on the PGA TOUR this year, he recorded seven DP World Tour top tens to earn his place in Europe's Ryder Cup team, winning half a point as Luke Donald's men defeated the United States.

He added to that tally by finishing second at last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge and brought that form to Dubai, where he is now a three-time DP World Tour champion and enters the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time.

“So much hard work has been put in over the past couple of years – it feels amazing, this is for family and everything they put in over the years. So much hard work going into this, for it to happen like this is unbelievable.

“We know there are a lot of birdies but we have to hit the shots and hole the putts, anything can happen we were just focused on the job today, to walk up 18 knowing there’s a good chance feels good, " said Hojgaard. "This is the sweetest way to finish the year, I cant believe we finished on such a high note, I’m definitely going to enjoy this."

Fleetwood and Hovland signed for a pair of 68s, one shot less than Wallace, to sit two ahead of defending champion Jon Rahm, South Africa's Thriston Lawrence and Frenchman Matthieu Pavon.

Spaniard Rahm and Lawrence both carded rounds of 66, with Pavon signing for a 67 to sit at 17 under, one shot clear of another Frenchman in Victor Perez and two ahead of Scot Ewen Ferguson and Dane Jeff Winther.

On the other hand, Rory McIlroy won the 2023 Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex with a week to spare in a season that saw him win two Rolex Series events, secure three top tens in Major Championships and miss just one cut on the DP World Tour.

Claiming his fifth Harry Vardon trophy to add to his victories in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2022, the Northern Irishman is now third on the all-time list, just one short of the late, great Seve Ballesteros and three behind the record of Colin Montgomerie.

The 34-year-old insists he has no intention of slowing down as he looks to add to his five Rankings titles, 16 DP World Tour wins and four Major Championships.

"I've still got a little bit left in the tank. I think I've still got a good eight to ten years left in me where I can play at the top, top level. I'd like to think that I'm going to challenge, at least try to get past Seve and then sort of try to get past Monty as well. But it's certainly a goal of mine for the rest of my career to do something like that. It would mean a lot to me, " he said after his final round at the DP World Tour Championship.

"I think it shows my consistency year-to-year. I think over the last ten years, I think I've won eight season-long titles between America and between here, so it just shows my level of consistency, " he added.

McIlroy's January victory at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic was his first Rolex Series win since the blue riband events started in 2017 and he followed it up with a win in his next Rolex Series start at the Genesis Scottish Open.

Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune is the last of ten players not otherwise exempt to earn PGA TOUR cards for the 2024 season, becoming dual members following the conclusion of the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex.

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