Pádraig Harrington saved his best for last at the Ras al Khaimah Championship in the United Arab Emirates as he worked his way back up into a top-30 finish with his lowest round of the week.
The former European Ryder Cup captain had a wild round with an eagle, six birdies, a bogey and a double bogey, but a five-under 67 moved him up to 10-under for the week and another respectable finish on the DP World Tour.
Always playing catch-up at Al Hamra, a level-par third round had ended any slim hopes of mounting a title challenge on the final day – and a 67 likely would have left him short anyway even if he had gone low on Saturday – but this was a positive round to take forward for Harrington.
It may not be a win, or even an overly notable result, but it does keep the momentum going for the three-time Major champion, who has now finished inside the top-30 in five consecutive events, with this his worst finish of them all, reflecting how well he is playing at present.
He needed to battle back from a wild start to his final round in Ras al Khaimah, bogeying the second, birdieing the par-five third and then double-bogeying the par-three fourth after a wild tee shot, but after that the 50-year-old settled down and found his scoring touch.
Back-to-back birdies came at the fifth and sixth to get him back to level for the day, and a 17-footer for birdie at the par-five eighth had him under-par at the turn, although he missed a five-footer at the next that would have yielded another birdie.
That did not deter Harrington, though, and he got his eagle at the par-five 14th when he holed out his third from just off the green, and he finished in style with a gorgeous approach shot at the 17th to four-feet for birdie before rolling in another 17-footer on the last to sign for a 67.
At the top, Nicolai Højgaard sealed his second DP World Tour title, 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.
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).
“It’s very sweet,” said Nicolai. “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.
“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.”
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.
- Full scoring HERE