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DP World Tour - Ras Al Khaimah Championship preview: Nicolai Hojgaard eyes title defence

The Middle East section of the DP World Tour season continues this week with the circuit moving from Dubai to the Ras al Khaimah Championship, which starts on Thursday morning.

WhatRas al Khaimah Championship
WhereAl Hamra Golf Club, Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
When03:10, Thursday 2nd February, 2023
How to watchSky Sports Golf and available to follow on bet365's Live Golf Tracker
OddsRyan Fox 16/1, Rasmus Hojgaard 16/1, Adrian Meronk 18/1, Victor Perez 18/1, Nicolai Hojgaard 18/1, Callum Shinkwin 25/1, Adri Arnaus 25/1

Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed staged a thrilling duel for the Dubai Desert Classic title on Monday morning – the weather-delayed event eventually being won by world number one McIlroy – but neither has entered this week's Ras al Khaimah Championship.

McIlroy has taken the week off, while Reed has jetted off to the Saudi International, leaving a cast of lesser lights to battle for the Ras al Khaimah Championship trophy.

The lack of star names has resulted in one of the most competitive betting heats of the season, with a gaggle of players all chalked up at similar odds. Ryan Fox, who won the Ras al Khaimah Classic at Al Hamra on the DP World Tour last year, has been given plenty of respect in the market and can be backed at 16/1.

Fox enjoyed a magnificent 2022 campaign, which featured victory in the Dunhill Links Championship, as well as runner-up efforts in the Soudal Open, Dutch Open, Irish Open and Nedbank Challenge.

The New Zealander has been short of sparkle in his opening two events of this year - 65th in the Abu Dhabi Championship and 20th in the Dubai Desert Classic – but the betting community are expecting big things on his return to a happy hunting ground.

The Hojgaard twins are also prominent in the betting, while many punters believe that Victor Perez can continue his wonderful start to the year. Perez won the Abu Dhabi Championship the week before last, incredibly holing a bunker shot on the 17th hole, which meant he ended up pipping Min Woo Lee by a shot, and the Frenchman can be backed at 18/1 for a quick follow-up in Ras al Khaimah.

Standard each-way terms of a quarter the odds, the first five places are available for the Ras al Khaimah Championship, while there are also alternative options, like a fifth the odds the first eight places, in the Each Way Extra section.

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Ras al Khaimah Championship course details

Al Hamra is a 7,400-yard, par-72, with four par-fives, 10 par-fours and four par-threes. The 72-hole course record is held by Nicolai Hojgaard, who carded a 24-under-par total when winning the Ras al Khaimah Championship last year. 

The 18-hole course record is held by Oliver Bekker, who fired a 62 in last year's Ras al Khaimah Classic. 

There have been five previous professional events at Al Hamra – the 2016 and 2017 Ras al Khaimah Challenge on the Challenge Tour, the 2018 Challenge Tour Grand Final, the 2022 Ras al Khaimah Championship and the 2022 Ras al Khaimah Classic. 

There are four course winners in this week's field - Jens Dantorp, Adri Arnaus, Nicolai Hojgaard and Ryan Fox. It should be sunny and warm throughout, with calm mornings followed by gentle afternoon breezes. 

Wide fairways, limited bunkering and straightforward greens make this a simple assignment which long drivers can overwhelm.

Three to follow

Nicolai Hojgaard

The 18/1 about Nicolai Hojgaard successfully defending his Ras al Khaimah Championship title this week could be popular. The dashing Dane has started the year in fantastic ball-striking form, top-scoring in the Hero Cup, then finishing 10th in the Abu Dhabi Championship.

Hojgaard romped to a four-shot victory in this event last year and relishes the dimensions of the layout.

Adrian Meronk

A missed cut in Dubai last week came as a shock to Adrian Meronk, but the Polish powerhouse can be expected to bounce back in Ras al Khaimah. He lost a playoff at Al Hamra in his Challenge Tour days and finished sixth in his last visit.

Meronk can be backed at 18/1 to follow up his Irish Open and Australian Open victories with another success.

Callum Shinkwin

Money has been flowing all week for Callum Shinkwin, who opened at 40/1 and is currently on offer at 25/1, and it is easy to see why the punting community has been drawn towards the Watford man.

Shinkwin finished the Desert Classic in style on Monday, ending the tournament fourth on the leaderboard, and there seems every chance he will enjoy a similarly successful week at another desert track this week.

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