Ras Al Khaimah Classic Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE DP World Tour’s Middle East Swing continues with the inaugural Ras Al Khaimah Classic at Al Hamra Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates. We have witnessed some sensational golf so far this year and the strength of this week’s field indicates that we are in for another bumper week.
Richard Bland missed out on the Dubai Desert Classic in a playoff. Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Collin Morikawa et al have all headed home, but Bland still faces a decent field as he goes in search of his second career title. It took him almost 500 attempts to win his first one, last year’s British Masters at The Belfry and was a reward for all the hard work he had put in as he approaches his 50th birthday.
Like Lee Westwood, Bland is playing some of the best golf of his life at an age when he might be forgiven for looking forward to joining the over-50s. He is still walking on air. He led the US Open at Torrey Pines after 36 holes before giving way to Jon Rahm, and it now seems that every time he tees it up he contends.
It would have been easy to understand if he had decided to head home to England after his efforts in Dubai. Not a bit of it. He is absolutely determined to add a second title and get himself inside the top 50 in the world rankings, so he played last week and is teeing it up again this week.
Bland is 48 years old. Hovland, who beat him in Dubai, is 24, precisely half his age. And this week he will be taking on Rasmus and Nicolai Hojgaard, the twins from Denmark who will not celebrate their 21st birthdays until next month. Last year they became the first twins to win back-to-back on the European Tour. Rasmus is already a three-time winner as a professional and Nicolai is celebrating after his second victory on this course at the weekend. Both are surely future Ryder Cup players who represent the future of European golf.
Robert MacIntyre will hope to enjoy many head to head battles with the Hojgaard twins in the years ahead. The Scottish left-hander is widely regarded as being one of the most gifted and most promising players on the DP World Tour but the harsh reality is that he still only has a solitary victory to his name. He hits the ball a long, long way and possesses a wondrous short game, especially on the greens, but many believe that he needs to do some work on his temperament.
He can be pretty hot-headed on the course when things don’t go his way. That works just fine for some golfers, Tyrrell Hatton being the obvious example. But the key is being able to put a bad shot to the back of your mind when you stand over the next one and it is quite clear that MacIntyre is not always able to do that.
This is the first time the event has been played.
Al Hamra Golf Club is a par 72 measuring 7,325 yards. Built on salt flats, its construction involved moving five millions cubic metres of sand. The course meanders around four huge lagoons that flow into the Arabian Gulf and features several elevation changes.
Richard Bland has provided golf with a feel-good story. His victory at the British Masters came at the 478th attempt and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house afterwards. But here’s the thing - his excellent form has continued and he finished second at the Dubai Desert Classic and is absolutely determined to win again sooner rather than later. At some point we will see Rasmus and Nicolai Hojgaard playing in the last group together with a title on the line. Not only are they identical twins but it is well-nigh impossible to tell their golf swings apart. Both are also blessed with wonderful temperaments.
Richard Bland. Living the dream
Rasmus Hojgaard. Great swing, wonderful temperament
Robert MacIntyre. Really needs to kick on
Five to Follow:
Richard Bland. One of the good guys
Rasmus Hojgaard. Proven winner
Robert MacIntyre. Talks a good game
Nicolai Hojgaard. He really is as good as his twin brother
Brandon Stone. Is there a better swing in golf?
Five Outsiders to Follow
Adrian Meronk. Giant of a man
Thorbjorn Olesen. Looking for redemption
Scott Hend. Wants to prove there’s life in the old dog yet
Thriston Lawrence. Desperate to prove victory in South Africa was not a one-off
George Coetzee. These conditions should suit his game
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