Star names target glory at Ras Al Khaimah Championship

Nicolai Højgaard leads an all-star field on the hunt for glory in the second edition of the Ras Al Khaimah Championship, taking place at Al Hamra Golf Club from February 2-5.

The event 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 Abi Dhabi, where he starred in Continental Europe’s victory over Great Britain and Ireland.

“I’ve been really looking forward to getting back to Ras Al Khaimah,” said Højgaard.

“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.”

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 after a tied 20th finish at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

I’m not feeling 100% but a lot better than I was on Monday,” said Fox.

“I 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 so was happy that I got it done. I had a rest day yesterday but I’m still feeling a bit under the weather, just tired and lethargic more than anything. Hopefully I 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.”

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.

“It wasn’t the final round I was expecting last week,” said Perez, who carded a disappointing closing round of 75 to finish in a share of 28th at Emirates Golf Club.

“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.”

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 bounce-back round of 65 in Dubai last week.

Last week felt like a long week even though I only played two rounds,” said Harrington. “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.”

As well as watching the DP World Tour stars on the course, there’s an array of exciting activities available for spectators away from the live golf.

The Championship Village boasts a Long Putt Challenge, free beach access is available at Al Hamra Residence and face painting, magic shows and games are on offer to keep children entertained all throughout the day.

There’s also live musical performances on offer throughout every tournament day starting with The Junior Brown Band on Thursday.

Greg Pearson, a popular Dubai-based singer who recently supported George Ezra, is set to take to the stage on Friday before Irish folk singer Brian Brody brings his endless energy to Ras Al Khaimah on Saturday.

Problem Child, one of the UAE’s most famous cover bands, will bring the event to a close on Sunday, following the crowning of this year’s champion.

Fans are invited to register for free tickets to the tournament here with ticketholders receiving 25% off both the Jais Sledder and Jais Flight by visiting the Jebel Jais Adventure Park tent in the Tournament Village during the Ras Al Khaimah Championship.

Share this article
What's in the bag
Swing Sequence

Brian Harman Swing Sequence

By Jonathan Craddock, PGA Professional, Pete Cowen Academy The 2023 Open...

Wyndham Clark Swing Sequence

By Jonathan Craddock, PGA Professional, Pete Cowen Academy One of the...

Related articles

8 hours ago

Lowry leads by two at The Open following tough second round

Ireland’s Shane Lowry holds a two-shot lead at the midpoint of...
17 hours ago

Dubai-born Rayhan Thomas set to tee it up at International Series England

Dubai-born golfer Rayhan Thomas is set to tee it up at...

Major debutant Dan Brown cards stunning bogey-free 65 to lead The Open on day one

In the fading light, Major debutant Dan Brown sank a birdie...