Nicolai Højgaard will take a two-shot lead into the weekend at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, after a stunning finish to his second round at Jumeirah Golf Estates that included an n eagle putt on the 18th hole after a birdie on the 17th.
The Dane arrived at the Earth course on day two in a share of the lead but back-to-back bogeys saw him stumble and he was still a long way behind despite fighting back to turn in level par.
A birdie on the tenth signalled the start of better things, though, and he added two more before finishing birdie-eagle to come home in 30 and sign for a 66 that left him at 11 under.
His Ryder Cup team-mates, Dubai resident Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland were in the group in second after rounds of 66 alongside South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence – who fired the round of the day with a 64 – and Swede Jens Dantorp and Frenchman Antione Rozner, who both signed for 67’s.
Højgaard may not have a win in the 2023 season but he has eight top-tens – including a runner-up finish at last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge – with three top fives in his last four DP World Tour starts.
The 22 year-old also has a runner-up finish on the PGA Tour, with his form earning him a Captain’s Pick from Luke Donald for Europe’s thumping victory over the United States last month.
He finished in a tie for fourth in his only previous appearance at this event in 2021 and is now in pole position for a first Rolex Series victory to cap off a stunning season.
‘It’s a little bit like last week,’ he said. ‘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 with where my game is at. So, it’s about staying patient.
‘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.’
‘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. I’m very happy with how it’s going.’
‘I feel like (a win is) the only thing I missed this season but there’s two rounds to go. There’s a lot of really good players in this field I know that’s going to be in the hunt the
next few days and I’m going to keep grinding as much as I can and put myself around, hopefully, and we’ll see on Sunday,’ signed off Hojgaard.
A three-putt on the third and missed green at the next saw him slide down the leaderboard early on but he hit back with an approach to six feet at the fifth and a two-putt birdie on the par-five seventh.
A 21-footer on the tenth had him in red figures for the day and when he holed putts from similar range at the 13th and 15th, he was closing in on the leaders.
A tee-shot to six feet at the 17th then put him in a share and while he had to hold his breath as his tee-shot on the last looked to flirt with the water, he put his second to six feet for a closing eagle and a two-shot advantage.
Second Round Leaders
(7.706 Yards, Par 72)
N. Hojgaard (Den) 67. 66. 133.
T. Lawrence (RSA) 71. 64. 135.
T. Fleetwood (Eng) 69. 66. 135.
V. Hovland (Nor) 69. 66. 135.
A. Rozner (Nor) 68. 67. 135.
J. Dantorp (Swe) 68. 67. 135.
Z. Lombard (RSA) 71. 65. 136.
M. Pavon (Fr) 67. 69. 136.