DUBAI: Tommy Fleetwood, the Dubai-based world No. 15, was hoping to win his first title of the season in a tournament that he said was close to his heart, but the Englishman will have to battle the red-hot rising star of the sport, Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard, who has similar ambitions.
Fleetwood and Hojgaard were both members of the winning European Ryder Cup team, and have had superb seasons.
Hojgaard has had eight top-10s this year and managed to secure his PGA Tour card in a limited number of starts, while Fleetwood, who moved to Dubai in late 2021 and established his Tommy Fleetwood Academy at Jumeirah Golf Estates, has had nine top-10s.
In Friday’s second round of the $10.5 million DP World Tour Championship, Hojgaard (66) made a stunning eagle on the par-5 18th hole to break free of a six-way tie at nine-under par.
The eagle, set up by a superb second shot from 217 yards to six feet, elevated him to 11-under, and two clear of five players on nine-under par total, including Fleetwood (66).
Others in tied second place included world No. 4 Norwegian Viktor Hovland (66), South African Thriston Lawrence (64), Frenchman Antoine Rozner (67) and Sweden’s Jens Dantorp (67).
Fleetwood, warmly applauded on the golf course by members, staff and fans, said: “It’s always great to be here. No matter what you do in your career, I feel like a chance to win this tournament, it’s close to my heart now, is very special.
“I always feel like the golf course brings out great champions, so the ultimate goal is to be one of those and put my name on the trophy. Halfway there, so enjoy that tonight and get ready to go again tomorrow.
“I look at consistency as the most pleasing thing without sort of getting my fair share of wins. But I keep believing that there’s just a load waiting for me at any given time. And I think just continuing to put myself in those positions and continuing to do the correct things. Hopefully, at some point, get into the habit of winning.
“It’s cool to be a part of this tournament. We live here now. The support from the members and everything, everybody that works at the golf club — it’s just great.”
Hojgaard lit up the back nine of the golf course after playing even-par for the front nine. He birdied the 10th, 13th, 15th and 17th before the eagle on his final hole for a blistering 30.
“It’s a little bit like last week as well. Had a slow start in every round. And then I just know that in 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,” said Nicolai, who brother Rasmus shot 66 with eagle on the par-4 15th and the 18th.
“It would be pretty cool to win my first title of the year here. I feel like that’s the only thing I missed this season. But there’s two rounds to go. There are a lot of really good players in this field I know they are going to be in the hunt the next few days. I’m going to keep grinding as much as I can.”
Conditions were easy, as the golf course played soft after a heavy downpour in the morning, and players made the most of it. Defending champion Jon Rahm of Spain also shot a 66 to move to tied 13th place, but world No. 2 Rory McIlroy continued to struggle and was tied 34th at one-under par total.