Tournament: Ras Al Khaimah Championship
DP World Tour Rankings: Tournament 9 of 45 events
Venue: Al Hamra Golf Club, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
Prize Fund: $2,000,000
Hashtag: #RAKGolfChamps #DPWT
Nicolai Højgaard returns to the scene of his second DP World Tour victory this week when he tees it up at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship.
The event at Al Hamra Golf Club rounds off the traditional start-of-year Desert Swing, with the 21-year-old having played in all three events so far, starting with the inaugural Hero Cup in Abu Dhabi, where he starred in Continental Europe’s victory over Great Britain and Ireland.
The defending champion recorded an impressive four-shot win last year, but he will have competition from the last player to win over the layout in the northern-most Emirate of the UAE, the recently crowned Players’ Player of the Year, Ryan Fox.
The Seve Award winner kick started his stellar 2022 season with victory in Ras Al Khaimah as the Peter Harradine-designed layout hosted back to back DP World Tour events – having previously welcomed the Challenge Tour from 2016 – 2018 – and he’s hoping to put the lingering effects of a stomach bug behind him in search of another strong week.
Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex leader Victor Perez has fond memories of the venue after earning his playing privileges on the Challenge Tour’s last visit four years ago. He’s looking to round off his stint in the desert how it began, following his victorious week alongside Højgaard in the Hero Cup and his maiden Rolex Series win in Abu Dhabi.
Meanwhile multiple Major winner and former Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington continues his quest to become the oldest winner in DP World Tour history following a missed cut but a second round of 65 in Dubai last week.
Nicolai Højgaard: “I’ve been really looking forward to getting back to Ras Al Khaimah. We’ve had some great events to start the year but I’ve been looking forward to getting back to RAK and playing this course again.
“I’ve seen a few changes to the course, makes it a bit more interesting and tougher. I get good memories when I’m out on the course. It was good to play 18 today and relive the moments we had. Will be trying to get some birdies the next few days.
“I started out well (last year), gave myself a few chances on the first few holes and got a five shot lead. I didn’t know that at the time, I was just trying to beat the guy I was playing with.
“It was a bit of a struggle mid round. On number nine, we talked about it out there today, making a double bogey. Things changed after that, made a good par save on ten. I knew going over to 11 and coming in there were a lot of good chances, but you still have to hit the shots and you’re under pressure. From 13 in there were a lot of good shots that got me over the line.”
Ryan Fox: “Not feeling 100% but a lot better than I was on Monday, woke up with a stomach bug. To be honest I was pretty happy just to finish, there were a couple of times I was close to calling it. Happy that I got it done. Had a rest day yesterday, still feeling a bit under the weather, just tired and lethargic more than anything. Hopefully should be good come tomorrow.
“I’ve got great memories around here. Obviously what happened last year, but after the finish last week just making sure I’m there or thereabouts on the weekend is the main goal this week.
“I still feel like I’m half defending, winning around the same course, I’m the last guy to win here. It certainly means something. Playing with the defending champion tomorrow as well, which will be good fun.
“Haven’t been out on course yet but I’ve heard they have toughened it up. They didn’t have a lot of notice last year to get the tournaments together but I thought the course played great. It’s just there was no rough and not much penalty for hitting the ball a bit off line, but I hear this year there’s a lot of penalty for just missing fairways.”
Victor Perez: “It wasn’t the final round I was expecting last week, but it’s all part of the learning after the win (in Abu Dhabi). I almost forgot that we played the Hero Cup as well, which was a lot of energy.
“It is the first time I’ve been here since 2018, graduating from Challenge Tour. I remember being on the 18th green, Adri Arnaus holing a nice putt on the last to win the tournament and JB Hansen getting Challenge Tour number one. Such great memories to come back to.
“From what I’ve heard the course is a little bit tougher than last year, there’s a bit more rough around some of the greens. It should keep the scoring down a bit relative to what Nicolai shot last year with a gazillion birdies and a few eagles for a 24 under par winning score.”
Padraig Harrington: “Last week felt like a long week even though I only played two rounds. It was unusual in Dubai for the weather to be like that, but they got it done, golf course is in great shape and they turned it around. The green staff are the unsung heroes of the Tour.
“The first day (in Dubai) I played like a klutz. You get that once a year. I used to get it when I was a goalkeeper as a kid, once a year you would let a back pass between your legs into the goal. They never substitute the goalkeeper off when he does that and it’s a bit like golf, you have to keep going.
“It was an easy 65 the next day, that was nice. Got a few things sorted on the weekend. I wasn’t happy with my ball flight last week so it should be a bit better this week.”