Nicolai Højgaard is relishing the opportunity to defend his title at this week’s Ras Al Khaimah Championship, with the Danish sensation headlining a star-studded field of Rolex Series winners, former Ryder Cup captains and a Major champion at Al Hamra Golf Club from February 2-5.
The 21-year-old stormed to victory at last season’s tournament, winning by four strokes from Jordan Smith as he carded a four under par final round 68 on the Peter Harradine-designed layout.
“It was a special week last year and I’m really looking forward to getting back out there,” said Højgaard. “From when we first got to Al Hamra, as the week evolved, I started playing some good golf and my driving was probably what made the main difference that week. On the key holes I drove it really well. If you drive it well here you can get a nice long carry which is definitely an advantage. It won’t surprise me if a long hitter wins the event this week.”
The 2023 Ras Al Khaimah Championship will mark the second time Højgaard has targeted the defence of a title after finishing in share of 27th at last year’s Italian Open, a year after claiming his maiden DP World Tour title at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club – this year’s Ryder Cup host venue.
“When I returned to defend my title in Italy it was pretty cool,” he said. “I went out there knowing I had already played well on the course and that showed in my game for most of the week, so I don’t think there is more pressure as such. You get good memories every time you’re on a certain tee box or hitting an approach shot as you know you’ve been in this position before and executed it well. It’s different returning to a course where you’ve won but in a cool way.”
Victor Perez, winner of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and two-time DP World Tour winner Adrian Meronk will join Højgaard at the culmination of the Desert Swing, along with former Ryder Cup captains Thomas Bjørn and Padraig Harrington, who has also won three Major Championships.
Meanwhile, George Coetzee got his week off to the perfect start with victory in the floodlit Monday evening Pro-Am alongside Smbat Pogosyan, Stamen Stantchev and Salekh Al Aroud, with the foursome finishing on 16 under par. Richie Ramsay led his team of Will Kent, Claudine Foong and Gurbax Singh to second, while Oliver Wilson’s team, consisting of Harry Grimshaw, Jon Turner and Mohamed Suleiman, came third.
Fans are invited to register for free tickets to the tournament here.