Hojgaard, Guerrier and Pavon on top as McIlroy and Rahm trail at DP World Tour Champs

Two Frenchmen and a Dane shared the lead at five-under each as the World’s second, third and fourth-ranked players were some distance behind them at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Two Frenchmen and a Dane shared the lead at five-under each as the World’s second, third and fourth-ranked players were some distance behind them at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard, seen as one of the rising stars of Europe, reeled in five birdies between the 10th and the 15th as he made up an uneventful front nine of even par for a 72 card to join Frenchmen Matthieu Pavon and Julien Guerrier who had compiled bogey-free 67 each earlier in the day.

Already assured of a fifth Race to Dubai crown, World No. 2, Rory McIlroy held on well to get in with an eventful 1-under 71. It included a shot on Par-3 13th hole that landed in a female spectator’s lap and then he had a testy up-and-down for a par on 17th and he just missed going into the creek and then had two putts for par from the lower tier of the 18th green.


McIlroy managed to avoid the water, but World No. 3 Jon Rahm did go into it for a bogey. He ended the day bogey-bogey for a 72.

World No. 4 Viktor Hovland, all set to attempt a three-peat at Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge in two weeks, was solid at 4-under till he dropped shots on the 16th and the 17th. He finished 2-under, but was still in the Top-10 despite returning to action for the first time since the Ryder Cup.

Hovland sits at tied seventh alongside Tom Kim, Tommy Fleetwood, who has an academy at the Jumeirah Golf Estates and Scotsman Robert MacIntyre.

Trailing the leading trio were Sweden’s Jens Danthorp, who barely made the field at 49th place, another Frenchman Antoine Rozner, who defends his AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open title next month, and the lanky Pole Adrian Meronk, who is currently placed third on the Race to Dubai and wants to forget the hurt of being overlooked for the Ryder Cup. They all shot 4-under 68 each. Meronk did not have a single par in his first five holes, as he began with a bogey and then had back-to-birdies followed by a bogey. He holed his second shot on the Par-4 fifth to go to 2-under and then added two more birdies on ninth and 15th for a 68.

Hojgaard, who has three Top-5 finishes in last four DP World Tour starts, was one over after six holes and level par as he made the turn but reeled off five birdies in six holes to sign for a 67 and get to five under.

Hojgaard said his Ryder Cup experience had him hungry for his first Rolex Series win. He said, “Spending time with the best players in the world, fighting for a common goal was amazing, and just being around those guys, seeing what they do, what do I do different, what do I need to work on.”

A debutant at the Earth Course at the DP World Tour Championship, Guerrier was bogey-free like the in-form countryman Pavon.

Guerrier said, “I just tried to be really disciplined because I don’t really know this course. My caddie has more experience on this course than me, so I just listen to him. I try to play in the zone and I did it correctly.

He added, “It’s a really tough course. It’s very demanding from the tee because if you are in the rough, it’s really difficult to hit the greens and it’s not too firm, the greens, actually. So it’s more friendly.”

Pavon recently claimed his first DP World Tour title at the Acciona Open de España presented by Madrid and has since added two further top 20s in his last three events.

McIlroy admitted to a bit of rust, as he said, “A little rusty. Got off to a nice start, and then hit a couple of loose shots on the back nine and felt like I was scrambling pretty much the whole way there. Overall, still only four back. It was a tricky day. I think the wind was up in the morning. It settled down a little bit for our front nine and got up again for our back nine.

On the 18th, he said, “I was hoping that my tee shot was going to miss the hazard right but I didn’t exactly think that it would do what it did. And the second shot from the mulch, it just sort of started left on me, and I got another stroke of luck by coming back over the bridge.

“I was a bit in two minds about whether to go left and cut it or go right. I felt with the longer club by hitting it, there was a chance of clipping the bridge on the way through. So I took a wedge and hit it in. Just tried to hit it as hard as I could and ended up making a good five (par). The up-and-down on 17 and the par on 18 was actually a pretty nice way to end the day.”


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