Hojgaard’s birdie-eagle finish gives him 2-shot lead over 5-man chasing pack

Nicolai Hojgaard, the halfway leader at DP World Tour Championships

Dubai, Nov 17: Viktor Hovland is looking at adding more silverware to an already burgeoning collection as he moved into a crowded group of five players, who trail Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard at the halfway stage of the DP World Tour Championships.

Hojgaard (67-66) one of the three co-leaders after the first round, finished with a birdie and an eagle on the last two holes to become the sole leader at 11-under.

Five players Jens Danthorp (68-67), Antoine Rozner (68-67), Tommy Fleetwood (69-66), Hovland (69-66) and Thriston Lawrence (71-64) all at 9-under.

Hovland, who won season-ending Tour Championships on the PGA Tour, is looking at joining Swede Henrik Stenson as the only player to have won the Tour Championship on both the elite Tours in the same year. Stenson did it ten years ago in 2013.

Rory McIlroy (71-72), who had already sewn up his fifth Race to Dubai crown, was languishing in the Tied-34th place, while the DP World Tour Championship defending champion Jon Rahm (72-66) was T-13.

As the Norwegian Hovland seeks a fourth official win in 2023, Hojgaard despite a great season has been winless this year but could change that this week.

There is another Scandinavian in the frame, Sweden’s Jens Danthorp, who barely into squeezed into this elite field in 49th place. He is now vying for his maiden win on the DP World Tour.

Hovland carded 66 to get into a five-way share of the lead, but that was only till Hojgaard bounced back from being 2-over after four holes to finish with a 66 that included a birdie-eagle finish. He became the sole leader by two shots.

Hojgaard may not have had a win in 2023, but his eight Top-10s include a runner-up finish on either side of the Atlantic – to Matt Wallace at the Corales Puntacana on the PGA and to Max Homa at the Nedbank Challenge on the DP World Tour last week.

Hojgaard was thrilled with his showing as he said, “Yeah, it’s a little bit like last week as well. Had a slow start in every round, basically. And then I just know on every round there’s going to be a run of birdies at some point. So it’s about staying patient. But I would like to play the front nine a little bit better in the weekend. But I’m very, very satisfied with how I’m playing these two rounds.”

He added, “Yeah, I mean, I trust my game at the moment. It’s been a little bit shaky at times this year, but I feel like we’re on track at the moment. I feel like I’ve got confidence in my shots, the selections of shots, the game plan we’ve put in place every round.”

Hojgaard admitted it would be great to win, and said, “That would be pretty cool, yeah. I feel like that’s the only thing I missed this season. But there’s two rounds to go.”

Hovland, whose string of Top-10s in 2023 includes three wins, carded a 66 with seven birdies and one bogey to get to 9-under.

This year in 21 starts prior to this week, Hovland had eight Top-10s including three wins and another seven finishes in Top-20. His performances include two Top-7 finishes in Majors, where he was inside Top-20 in all four.

Hovland, who will attempt a three-peat at Hero World Challenge next month, said, “I drove it a lot better off the tee today. Just put myself in the fairway and I was able to attack a little bit more. I still feel like my iron game is not as sharp as it should be. I’m hitting a lot of greens and I’m giving myself a lot of looks but the ball is going so far, it’s hard to really dial in the distances. Yeah, just playing really solid and chipping it good, driving it good and putting it good.”

On the golf course, he added, “It was definitely softer but overall it’s amazing how well it held up. I heard they got a bunch of rain but it wasn’t even that bad. I didn’t get any mud balls, either.”

Rozner last won in Mauritius last December and he will defend that title next month while South African Thriston Lawrence seeks to follow up on the win at the South African Open in December 2022, which was part of the current season. Then there was the win at the BMW International and another one here will make it an incredible three this season.

For Fleetwood, a win will cap a great year during which he has not won but finished in Top-10 nine times, including three times in Top-3.

Danthorp has never won on the DP World Tour and his successes include three wins on the Challenge Tour, the last of which was as recent as 2022.

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