On a day when his identical twin brother made two eagles, Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard made just one.
He may have lost the bragging rights at home, but that eagle proved critical in determining the halfway leader in the $10.5 million DP World Tour Championship.
On the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates, Nicolai Hojgaard’s 66 broke through a logjam on top of the leaderboard at 9-under par with a stunning second shot from 217 yards that left him with a six-feet eagle putt and edged him ahead by two shots over a group of five players.
Among those chasing Europe’s rising star at 9-under par are world number four Norwegian Viktor Hovland (66) and England’s world No15 Tommy Fleetwood (66).
Also in tied second place are South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence (64), Frenchman Antoine Rozner (67) and Sweden’s Jens Dantorp (67).
Early morning rain and thunderstorm had forced the organisers to delay the tee times. With lift, clean and place in play and the greens soft, it was a day to make birdies.
Defending champion Jon Rahm of Spain made a move up to tied 13th place with a 66, but world number two Rory McIlroy continued to show his rust and could only add an even-par 72 to be 10 shots off the pace.
Nicolai may not have won any title so far in the season, but he was a Ryder Cup rookie for Europe and has also managed to secure his PGA Tour card in the limited opportunities that he got.
And just like in Thursday’s opening round, the world No 70 Dane lit up the back nine of the golf course after playing even-par for the front nine. He birdied the 10th, 13th, 15th and 17th before the eagle on his final hole for a blistering 30.
“It’s a little bit like last week as well. Had a slow start in every round. And then I just know that in every round, there’s going to be a run of birdies at some point with where my game is at. So, it’s about staying patient,” said Nicolai, whose brother Rasmus shot 66 with eagles on the par-4 15th and the 18th.
“I would like to play the front nine a little bit better on the weekend. But I’m very, very satisfied with how I played these two rounds.
“It would be pretty cool to win my first title of the year here. I feel like that’s the only thing I missed this season. But there are two rounds to go.
“There are a lot of really good players in this field I know they are going to be in the hunt the next few days. I’m going to keep grinding as much as I can.”
Despite his tied 34th position, McIlroy did not count himself out of the equation as a title contender.
Asked if he had had a low weekend on a golf course where he has an excellent record, the man who secured his fifth Race to Dubai (Order of Merit) win this year, said: “I do feel there is. I hit eight out of nine greens on the front nine and I played nicely and I didn’t putt as well as I did yesterday. There is a low one out there and obviously, I’m going to need a low one to get myself back in the tournament.”
The $10.5 million season-ending championship has a limited field of 50 players. While the Race to Dubai has already been decided in McIlroy’s favour, the top-eight players getting a share of the $6 million bonus pool will be determined on Sunday, as also the 10 PGA Tour cards on offer for the top-10 non-exempt DP World Tour members.