Hojgaard Offers Bright View of Future With Thrilling Win in Mauritius
We saw a glimpse of the future at the Mauritius Open and boy does it look bright! A host of players had a chance to win for the first time and, in a nail-biting climax, Rasmus Hojgaard became the third-youngest golfer to triumph on the European Tour. The 18-year-old Dane, in only his second tournament, played like a veteran and this will surely be the first of many victories. But he will never forget this one, achieved in a three-man playoff at the magnificent Heritage Golf Club and secured at the third extra hole courtesy of an eagle.
“I can’t put this into words. It’'s a dream come true,” he said. "I just kept believing in myself and trusting the numbers. Of course I want to thank my parents and my brothers. I just don’t know what else to say."
Hojgaard, Antoine Rozner and Renato Paratore finished tied on 19 under par and headed back to the par-five 18th for a playoff. Hojgaard and Rozner split the fairway, while Paratore was lucky not to find the knee-high reeds on the right and when he put his second into the water, his day was done. Rozner put his second into a greenside bunker and Hojgaard took full advantage, hitting a stunning second shot that finished 18 feet from the hole. Rozner produced a fabulous recovery to birdie the hole, leaving Hojgaard with a putt to win but it slid by the hole.
With Paratore eliminated, Rozner and Hojgaard returned to the 18th tee. Both men found the fairway and hit the green in two. The Dane two-putted for birdie, leaving Rozner to hole a seven-footer to extend the playoff and he duly drained it. Back they went to the tee again. This time, Hojgaard struck the shot of the day, leaving his approach seven feet from the hole, while Rozner left himself fully 40 feet away. The Dane made the eagle putt and victory was his.
Rozner made a dreadful start to the final round, dropping two shots early on before battling back. Paratore reached the turn in 31 to move to 19 under par and led South Africa’s Louis De Jager by a shot.
De Jager had a day to remember. He birdied the second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth to reach the turn in 30 and when he added an eagle at the par-five 14th he was eight under for the day and 18 under for the week. He also had the advantage of being ahead of Paratore on the course and being able to set a challenging clubhouse target. Frenchman Julien Guerrier also eagled the 14th to move alongside De Jager. We were heading for a thrilling finish. When Paratore dropped a shot at the 10th we had a three-way tie for the lead.
Hojgaard, from Denmark, is just 18 years old, and he is one to watch for the future. A fearless youngster, he reached the turn in two under for the day and was just one behind the leaders.
After playing a starring role in the Junior Ryder Cup, Højgaard joined the paid ranks and started competing on the European Challenge Tour. To say he hit the ground running is an understatement, with the teenager sharing second place in his first start, at the Challenge de España. Following that performance, he enjoyed another five top-10 finishes to end his debut season as a professional in 21st place in the Challenge Tour rankings. He travelled from the Challenge Tour Grand Final to the Final Stage of European Tour Qualifying School. Despite opening with a two over par 73, he followed it with four sub-70 rounds to finish fifth and earn a European Tour card. In doing so Hojgaard became the first player born this century to graduate from Q-School.
And here he was challenging for his first European Tour title in only his second start.
Paratore had a golden chance to get back the stroke he dropped on the 10th when he hit a glorious approach to the next but he missed the putt. Next to join the party was Frenchman Benjamin Herbert, who eagled the 14th to move to 18 under. We now had four players tied for the lead - Hebert, Thomas Detry, De Jager and Paratore. And there was a logjam on 17 under - Grant Forrest, Guerrier and Hojgaard. With a further three players on 16 under, it meant we had 10 players within two shots on one another.
Hojgaard joined the leaders when he holed a monstrous birdie putt at the 10th. Up ahead, De Jager was running out of holes and narrowly missed a birdie at the 17th, where his putt finished an inch short and he could only par the 18th, closing with a 64.
Rozner battled his way back and when he birdied the 10th he was back to 17 under. Detry hit his approach close at the same hole and holed the putt to lead by one on 19 under, but he promptly gave two shots back at the next.
Hebert, who lost three playoffs in 2019, birdied the 16th and found himself leading at 19 under. Unbelievably, he putted his ball off the green at the next and dropped a shot, so we had six players tied for the lead - Hebert, Rozner, Paratore, Forrest, De Jager and Hojgaard. There were three more on 17 under, including Detry.
Hebert hit his drive into knee-high rough at the last and had to take a penalty drop. It was not the finish he wanted. His inability to finish the job off is becoming a serious concern. Winning golf tournaments is no easy matter, and so it was proving. Herbert managed to salvage his par at the last and joined De Jager in the clubhouse at 18 under. It surely wouldn’t be good enough.
Hojgaard was next to struggle, leaving his third shot in the sand at the 14th. But his next was a gem and he walked off with a par five. Rozner, in only his sixth European Tour start, completed his recovery when he birdied the 14th to take the lead on 19 under. And Detry birdied the same hole to join the chasing pack on on 18 under. Forrest parred the 18th to join De Jager and Herbert in the clubhouse on 18 under.
Rozner had company at the top when Detry birdied the 16th. A playoff was beginning to look like a racing certainty.
Hojgaard possesses some serious power and struck an enormous drive at the 18th, where a birdie was his minimum requirement. Up ahead, Paratore produced a magical pitch, holed the putt for a birdie and became the clubhouse leader at 19 under. Hojgaard found the green in two but faced a huge putt. His first effort finished six feet to the right and he needed to hole it to join the group on 19 under. It never touched the sides.
Detry plugged his second in a green side bunker at the 17th and was unable to find the green with his third and dropped a shot, falling back to 18 under. Rozner parred the same hole and so he came to the final hole requiring a birdie to win. He drove into the rough on the right and had to lay up. His third shot came up 25 feet short.
Detry, who still wasn’t finished with this tournament yet, came up short in two and struck his pitch to six feet. All things were still possible.
First to go was Rozner, who knew that if he holed his putt he would win. But he came up short and finished 19 under. Could Detry join him and make it a four-man playoff? Sadly, he missed. And so Rozner, Hojgaard and Paratore would return to the 18th tee.
Rasmus Hojgaard’s WINNING TaylorMade BAG:
- M5 Driver |10.5°| Tensei AV Blue 65 TX
- M5 Fairway |15°| Diamana ZF 70 TX
- M6 Fairway |19°| Tensei Blue 90 X
- P770 |4-PW| KBS C-Taper125 S+
- Milled Grind Hi-Toe |50°, 56°, 60°| KBS Custom Black X
- TP Patina Ardmore 3
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Tags: european tour