Ben Coley previews the final round of the Ras al Khaimah Championship, where Rasmus Hojgaard looks like the man they all have to beat.
As a longtime fan of Zander Lombard and a backer this week of Nicolai Hojgaard, Saturday’s third round at the Ras al Khaimah Championship wasn’t as enjoyable as it might’ve been.
When Nicolai Hojgaard holed his wedge approach to the 12th for eagle to join the lead, all was rosey. He’d hit the ball beautifully all day and made little, yet now had finally launched a challenge which seemed far-fetched when half asleep during round one.
Then he missed a two-foot birdie putt, a six-foot par putt and a four-foot birdie putt in a run of three holes, before failing to birdie the par-five 18th from prime position in the middle of the fairway. At 13-under with six to play, 12-under represents the worst outcome possible.
Meanwhile, Lombard shot a fabulous 63, his second such round at Al Hamra, thanks to a couple of chip-ins and a day where everything went right until he missed a seven-foot eagle try at the last. Still, backers could console themselves with the fact he was now out in front and four clear of our main selection.
Separating the two are RASMUS HOJGAARD, Daniel Gavins and Matthieu Pavon, and I won’t be alone in seeing this as a golden opportunity for Rasmus now that his brother has stumbled and Adrian Meronk has fallen outside the top 15.
While Lombard searches for his first DP World Tour win, Rasmus has three to his name already and he’s a tad unfortunate that number isn’t four given what happened during the final round of the Open de France.
Despite a stray second to the 18th on Saturday which he did well to recover from and make par, it’s been a generally impressive display on his second start back following injury, and motivation is high given the Ryder Cup, his absence from the Hero Cup, what happened in Paris, and the chance to succeed Nicolai as champion here.
Sitting second with a round to go, one off a nervy and at times wild front-runner who brought little in the way of form into this week, Hojgaard looks primed to pick off the leader and may yet find that his biggest challenge comes from behind.
It could yet be his brother, too, Nicolai having been supreme from tee-to-green on Saturday. He’ll need a fast start to bridge a four-shot gap to Lombard but it’s possible here, as he can drive two of the first five holes and knock a mid-iron onto the green at the par-five.
Sky Bet offer 10/1 that the Hojgaard twins fill the first two places on the leaderboard and that’s a fun option for those so inclined, but from a stalking position I rate Rasmus a strong fancy to now go on and win his first title in 18 months.
Lombard has led twice at this level, both times by a shot, and carded rounds of 77 and 74 to finish fifth and eighth. He has bags of ability and this course can be forgiving, but it seems unlikely that things go as well for him on Sunday and he’s easy to oppose at 2/1.
Posted at 1540 GMT on 04/02/23
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