Nicolai Højgaard will take a two-shot lead into the weekend at the DP World Tour Championship after a stunning finish to his second round at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
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.
Højgaard has eight top tens in the 2023 season – 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 Ryder Cup victory over the United States last month.
His Ryder Cup team-mates Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland were in a tie for second at nine under par after rounds of 66, alongside Swede Jens Dantorp, Frenchman Antione Rozner and South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence – who fired the round of the day with a 64.
Nicolai Højgaard: 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 with where my game is at. So it’s about staying patient.
I would like to play the front nine a little bit better on 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 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 are going to be in the hunt the next few days. I’m going to keep grinding as much as I can and putt myself around, hopefully, and we’ll see on Sunday.
Tommy Fleetwood: Actually felt like I played better yesterday. Today was the day where I felt like I scored well. Gave myself a lot of chances on the back nine. As always, you’d like one more hole when you’re playing the last but overall just seems nice to get into a bit of rhythm today and see some putts drop in, and on a day where I think scoring was probably pretty good, it was nice to be one of those.
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, this one.
So just looking forward to the weekend. I always feel like it brings out great winners, like great champions, so the ultimate goal is to be one of those. Put my name on the trophy. Halfway there, enjoy that tonight and get ready to go again tomorrow but any time you’re in contention and especially at a tournament like this, it’s really, really nice.
Viktor Hovland: It was nice. 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.
It’s been huge, just talking about yesterday, that could have easily been an even par plus one round, just some of the spots I left myself in. But I hit it pretty nice. Missed it in some spots that I usually could have made a bogey or a double and that just completely kills momentum. So yeah, I’m just staying really patient and not making a mistake and it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, so I think yeah, it’s nice to play kind of stress-free golf.