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Nicolai Højgaard leads; Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood in the mix at DP World Tour Championship

Some of the best European players on the planet are at the top of the leaderboard at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Nicolai Højgaard, DP World Tour Championship
Nicolai Højgaard walks with his caddie toward the 18th green during the first round of the 2023 DP World Tour Championship.
Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Nicolai Højgaard, the young Dane who made his Ryder Cup debut this Fall, holds a share of the lead after round one at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

The 22-year-old bomber carded a 5-under 67 Thursday, which included a barrage of birdies on the back-nine. Two Frenchmen: Matthieu Pavon and Julien Guerrier also shot 67s.

“I played really well today,” Højgaard said.

“Drove it well from hole No. 1 to 18, even though it was a little bit of a circus on 18, felt really solid. Got on a run. You know there are a few chances out there, so it’s just about hitting good shots and staying present, and I feel I did a good job today.”

The 18th hole on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates is a long, dogleg right par-5 that measures 620 yards. A creek bisects the fairway and then circles around the left side of the green—it has produced plenty of drama over the years and certainly made Højgaard sweat on Thursday.

He drove it in the left bunker, laid up well left of the fairway, and faced a 204-yard shot from the rough for his third. He air-mailed it over the green, then needed to make an 8-footer for par to keep a share of the lead. He made it.

Sitting one stroke behind the leaders is Ryder Cup snub Adrian Meronk of Poland, who had a beautiful eagle at the par-4 5th.

Then, one stroke behind Meronk, sit three Ryder Cup stars who are in a tie for seventh.

Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood, and Robert MacIntyre signed for 3-under 69s on Thursday.

“Yeah, it was pretty solid basically the whole way,” Hovland said of his opening round.

“Made a nice birdie on the second hole and hit a lot of good shots. I just didn’t make any putts on the front nine until the ninth hole, and then I made another one on 10 and another one on 12.”

The Norwegian was cruising, as he was 4-under and had yet to make a bogey when he stepped onto the 16th tee.

But he drove it into the sand trap right of the fairway, leading to a dropped shot.

Then, at the par-3 17th, Hovland’s tee shot landed on the bridge that leads golfers to the island green.

He hit a gorgeous chip off the woodwork—channeling Michael Block’s shot off the bridge at the Charles Schwab Challenge in May. But Hovland missed the 7-footer for par, thus dropping another shot.

Hovland rallied to make birdie on the final hole, which got him back to 3-under.

Second-round coverage of the DP World Tour Championship begins on Golf Channel at 2 a.m. ET. Like the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship at East Lake, tee times for the 51-man field reset each day based on where they are on the leaderboard.

Guerrier and Pavon comprise the all-France final pairing for Friday’s round.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.