Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, and Tommy Fleetwood in Contention at DP World Tour Championship
By The Associated Press
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The season-ending DP World Tour Championship saw Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, and Tommy Fleetwood make significant moves towards contention on Friday.
However, Rory McIlroy was unable to join them.
While the No. 2-ranked McIlroy struggled, shooting an even-par 72 in the second round, Rahm, Hovland, and Fleetwood all had impressive rounds of 66 on the Earth Course, positioning themselves well for the weekend.
Nicolai Hojgaard, a 22-year-old Danish golfer who recently gained experience at the Ryder Cup, had a remarkable back nine, scoring four birdies and an eagle to shoot 66 and take the lead at 11-under par. He is currently two shots ahead of a five-man group that includes Hovland and Fleetwood.
Rahm, ranked No. 3, finished five shots behind the leader but expressed satisfaction with his game, despite a frustrating three-putt for bogey on his final hole.
On the other hand, McIlroy struggled throughout the tournament, finishing at 1-under and tied for 34th place in a field of 50 for the DP World Tour’s 2023 season finale.
Hojgaard, who shared the lead after the first round, had a slow start in round two with bogeys at Nos. 3 and 4. However, he bounced back with birdies on two of the next three holes and finished strong with a birdie-par-birdie-eagle sequence, including a remarkable second shot on the par-5 18th hole.
As one of the rising stars of European golf and a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup, Hojgaard is building on his second-place finish at the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week.
“It’s a little bit like last week as well — had a slow start in every round, basically. And then I just know 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 Hojgaard, currently ranked 70th.
Hovland, ranked No. 4, had an exceptional season, winning the season-ending TOUR Championship on the PGA TOUR in August. He was also one of Europe’s standout players at the Ryder Cup and has earned nearly $35 million in on-course earnings this year. With just one bogey on Friday and seven birdies, including four in his last seven holes, Hovland is playing stress-free golf in Dubai and has a chance to win the $3 million prize.
“I’m just staying really patient and not making a mistake, and it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to,” said Hovland.
Rahm had a strong start, birdying four of his first seven holes and nearly holing his approach on the 18th hole for an albatross. However, he settled for an eagle from 2 feet. Despite being just two shots off the lead at one point, Rahm struggled to maintain momentum and finished with a bogey on the ninth hole.
“To three-putt there leaves a bit of a sour taste,” said Rahm, the defending champion.
McIlroy had a promising start on the front nine, birdying Nos. 2, 6, and 7 and hitting eight greens in regulation. However, he struggled on the back nine, playing the final 11 holes in 2 over par.
“I was trying to make some birdies on the back nine to get something going, and I couldn’t,” said McIlroy.
The DP World Tour Championship promises an exciting weekend as these marquee players battle for the title.