Sam Torrance: Nicolai Hojgaard is destined to be a world beater
Big-money tournaments elsewhere in the Middle East may have attracted the headlines but the best golf story of the weekend for me was Nicolai Hojgaard.
The young Dane and his twin brother Rasmus are going to be world-beaters and Nicolai took the next step on that journey with an extraordinary victory at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship.
Five shots ahead after eagling the third, Hojgaard had slipped to two behind England’s Jordan Smith by the time he teed it up at the 13th. But he conjured a fantastic final six holes that included three birdies and another eagle to win by four in the United Arab Emirates.
It was his second title on the DP World Tour at the age of just 20, after last year’s Italian Open, and came after a pair of missed cuts at the Abu Dhabi Championship and Dubai Desert Classic.
When the chips were down on Sunday he hit a quite exceptional approach out of the sand to the par-five 14th and made a three. It showed that as well as having all the talent, he has all the heart too.
Smith played beautifully too, capping a fine few weeks for him in the Gulf which also featured a top-10 finish in Dubai and a share of 12th in Abu Dhabi.
But Hojgaard was the undoubted star and looks bound for great things. The way the twins have taken the game by storm at such a young age reminds me a bit of Jordan Spieth’s breakthrough.
It’s great when you have a small country like Denmark make its mark on the sport, and it should turn out to be great news for Europe too. In former Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn they have the ideal man to take them under his wing.
Varner earns his golden ticket
The Saudi International witnessed an unbelievable finish as Harold Varner III holed a 120ft eagle putt to claim his biggest win yet.
Varner looked down and out after Bubba Watson had signed off with an eagle of his own but he summoned something special to pip his fellow American.
I’ve always liked his swing – it’s very good and very simple; you never think he’s going to hit a bad shot – and this could be a turning point for him.
As well as big money there were also big world ranking points at stake. This win propelled Varner from 99th to inside the top 50.
That’s the golden ticket – it gets him into the Masters and all the biggest events – and is a massive step in his promising career.
England’s Steve Lewton also enjoyed his best result as a professional by finishing fourth in Saudi Arabia.
Lewton, 38, qualified via the Asian Tour, which this event is now part of, where he has played most of his golf for the last decade.
It was a fantastic performance and lifted the man from Bedfordshire back into the world’s top 300 for the first time since 2014.
Hoge gets his fairytale at last
It was fairytale stuff for Tom Hoge, meanwhile, as he won his first PGA Tour title at the 202nd attempt at Pebble Beach.
Spieth looked certain to win at one point, having stormed into contention with a 63 on Saturday, but three birdies in the last five holes swept Hoge to victory by two shots.
The 32-year-old, who was second at the American Express two weeks ago, held his nerve despite having the daunting task of playing alongside a top-10 player in Patrick Cantlay. Spieth didn’t do much wrong either.
Finally, a mention for Matt Fitzpatrick, who was the highest-placed European in a tie for sixth. He’s such a great wee player and that is a good result at this time of year.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him @torrancesam