Sport - Golf - Nicolai Højgaard
Defending champion Nicolai Højgaard Image Credit: Harry Grimshaw, Gulf News

Nicolai Højgaard is set to defend his title at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship at Al Hamra Golf Club beginning on Thursday February 5th.

The Danish 21-year-old star won by four strokes in last years edition after rounds of 67, 65, 64, 68, a 24 under par total.

“It was a special week last year and I’m really looking forward to getting back out there,” said Højgaard.

“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.”

Harry Grimshaw, Gulf News

Victor Perez, winner of the Race to Dubai’s first Rolex Series event of the season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, is making a return to Al Hamra Golf Club. The scene where he graduated from the Challenge Tour in 2018. The Frenchman joins Højgaard at the culmination of the four week Desert Swing after the Hero Cup, Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and last weeks Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

“When I walked in the clubhouse here it’s the first time I have been here since 2018 graduating on the 18th green out here. Adri Arnaus holed a great putt on the last to win and JB became the Challenge Tour number one graduate, it’s such a fun memory to come back here for sure.

Sport - Golf
Al Hamra Golf Club, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE Image Credit: Harry Grimshaw, Gulf News

“The course is a little tougher what I hear from last year, they are going to try and control the scoring with more rough around the greens which should keep the scoring down in relative to what Nicolai shot last year”

Padraig Harrington comes off a missed cut in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, although a fourth placed finish the week before in Abu Dhabi a huge positive for the Irishman who returns to Al Hamra for the second time.

“It’s extremely narrow, easily the narrowest golf course that I have ever seen. Even on the tough driving holes you have got 15 – 20 yards of fairway at most about half the size of what you would regularly see. They have obviously got heavier rough which is big flyer rough, and they have brushed up the sand. So once you have missed that you used to be in hard sand now you are in soft sand which will be full of foot prints.

Sport - Golf - Padraig Harrington
Padraig Harrington ahead of the Ras Al Khaimah Championship Image Credit: Harry Grimshaw, Gulf News

“So it’s not going to be tougher for the guy that hits it down the middle all the time, if you hit 50% of your drives in the fairway this week you would be a straight driver of the ball so it will be interesting to see what it does to the scoring.”

Flying the flag for the UAE is Hassan Al Musharrekh who is representing the Emirates Golf Federation. The 20 year-old is getting his tournament underway at 08:50 local time from hole number one on Thursday morning alongside Ireland’s John Murphy and England’s Andrew Wilson.

Selected featured groups, round one

Match 16 – Tee 10 @ 07:50
Edoardo Molinari (Italy), Dan Bradbury (England), Calum Hill (Scotland)

Match 17 – Tee 10 @ 08:00
Victor Perez (France), Ryan Fox (New Zealand), Nicolai Højgaard (Denmark)

Match 18 – Tee 10 @ 08:10
Guido Migliozzi (Italy), Rasmus Højgaard (Denmark), Rafa Cabrera Bello (Spain)

Match 27 – Tee 1 @ 12:20
Julien Brun (France), Ockie Strydom (South Africa), Padraig Harrington (Ireland)

Match 28 – Tee 1 @ 12:30
Callum Shinkwin (England), Adrian Meronk (Poland), Adri Arnaus (Spain)

Match 29 – Tee 1 @ 12:40
Thriston Lawrence (South Africa), Richie Ramsay (Scotland), Oliver Wilson (England)

Match 30 – Tee 1 @ 12:50
Thomas Bjørn (Denmark), Eddie Pepperell England), Ewen Ferguson (Scotland)