Nicolai Højgaard sealed his second DP World Tour title at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship presented by Phoenix Capital, emerging from a roller-coaster final day with a four-stroke victory courtesy of an array of world-class recovery shots at Al Hamra Golf Club.
The win, which means that Højgaard and his twin brother Rasmus have earned five Tour victories between them before their 21st birthday, did not come easy for the Dane despite having enjoyed a three-shot lead going into the finale in the northernmost of the United Arab Emirates.
The 20-year-old had put on an exhibition of long iron play all week, and that continued when he almost holed out for albatross from the sandy wasteland at the third hole, tapping in for an eagle.
But as Jordan Smith, a former winner in Ras Al Khaimah on the Challenge Tour, began to apply the pressure, Højgaard double-bogeyed the ninth and dropped another shot at the 12th, and Smith suddenly held a two-stroke lead.
Højgaard was equal to the challenge, however, and just as he had done on day three, he flourished down the final stretch. Another absolutely stunning recovery from the waste on the 14th earned a second remarkable eagle of the day and helped him on the way to a four under 68, a 24 under total and a dominant triumph which moved him to ninth in the DP World Tour Rankings.
“It’s very sweet. It’s been such a tough grind today. I got off to a good start and then I struggled quite a bit. I had to dig deep out there, the turning point was on 13 where I saw that Jordan Smith made a run and was two up, and I stepped up with a clutch finish so I’m really happy" SAID Højgaard.
“I was thinking that I was throwing the tournament away when I made double-bogey and then bogey on 12, I had to dig deep and my good friend Christian on the bag did a brilliant job keep me focused on motivated for the finish and it turned out pretty good.
“The shot at 14, I don’t know what to say about it. We had a decent lie and it was a bit down in the desert. I hit a good five iron and suddenly I hit it to two and half metres for an eagle and it was pretty special.
“I’m quite excited for the future now. I wasn't really thinking about it, but obviously when you’re playing good you start looking at all the Rankings. I’m motivated to keep going and get better and hopefully quality for those big tournaments.”The win means that the average age of the first four winners in the DP World Tour era is 24.75, with Højgaard joining Thriston Lawrence (25), Thomas Pieters (30) and Viktor Hovland (24).
He will now play alongside his twin brother in an innovative new televised team event - the Hero Challenge - on Tuesday, before the Ras Al Khaimah Classic tees off a second consecutive week at Al Hamra.
Smith's runner-up finish means back-to-back top tens for the Englishman, after finishing tied ninth at last week's Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic, and he moved up to seventh in the DP World Tour Rankings.