Five players carded rounds of 66 to share the Mauritius Open lead after Thursday's play.

Rasmus Hojgaard, Benjamin Hebert, Romain Langasque, Brandon Stone and Grant Forrest all finished six under.

A further nine players fared only one shot worse to leave the leaderboard tightly congested heading into round two.

Of the leading quintet, rookie Hojgaard was the only man to go blemish-free, with his impressive card also featuring an eagle at the seventh.

He and French duo Herbert and Langasque have never won on the European Tour, and the same applies to Forrest.

The Scot made gains at each of the par-fives, including a three at the 14th, and acknowledged how important those holes will be this week.

"The par-fives are key, they are all reachable," he told the European Tour website.

"You get the tee shots away there and there are really good chances, so you need to make the most of them."

Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Casey are among a congested chasing pack but it is a pair of amateurs who lead the way after round one of the Australian Open.

Japan's Takumi Kanaya, who four years ago shot 85 at the same course, and Chun An Yu of Taiwan each signed for rounds of 65 to lead at six under par in Sydney.

Both players noted just one bogey in their respective rounds to take a two-stroke lead from Matt Jones, Daniel Nisbet and Dimitrios Papadatos.

Oosthuizen and Casey are lurking in a pack of 15 players all three shots off the pace at three under.

South African Oosthuizen went blemish free through his 18 holes, while Casey was also without a bogey on his card having birdied the ninth and made eagle at the par-five 14th.

It was a day to forget for home favourite Adam Scott, though, as the 2009 champion went four over and faces a battle to make the weekend.

Tiger Woods fell away in the closing stages to end round one of the Hero World Challenge six shots adrift of joint leaders Gary Woodland and Patrick Reed.

U.S. Open champion Woodland and Reed led on six under par after shooting rounds of 66, with Chez Reavie two strokes off the pace in third position.

Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson were all in contention on three under, with defending champion Jon Rahm one shot further back.

Woods, meanwhile, ended the day on even par in a tie for 11th place as he played for the first time since his win in Japan at the Zozo Championship in October.

Hosting the event at Albany, in the Bahamas, Woods selected the pairings and had many of his USA players for next week's Presidents Cup playing alongside each other.

It looked like Woods would end Wednesday's play in touching distance of the leaders after recovering from a two-over-par front nine to gain five shots in as many holes in a supreme stint, capped by chipping in for an eagle on the 15th.

But he dropped a shot on 17 and then three-putted on the last for a double bogey as he fell away.

Earlier, he had enjoyed an amusing moment with playing partner Thomas by mocking the length of the world number five's drive.

Woodland's impressive round in windy conditions included eight birdies to ensure he led the 18-man field along with Reed, who had four consecutive birdies on 13, 14, 15 and 16.

Reavie, a late replacement for Dustin Johnson, overcame a double bogey on the ninth to put himself firmly in the mix at an event which Woods has won five times, but not since 2011.

It was a day to forget for Tony Finau, with last year's runner-up recording a seven-over score of 79 that contained a triple bogey on the eighth to sit bottom of the leaderboard.

Tiger Woods believes golf can help to "heal" the issues that have led to criticism of Phil Mickelson's decision to play the Saudi International in 2020.

The introduction of the tournament to the European Tour calendar in 2019 was controversial due to Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

Dustin Johnson won the inaugural event, held from January 31 to February 3 this year, and will again play for the $3.5million purse next year.

World number one Brooks Koepka will also feature in the field and Mickelson's decision to skip the Waste Management Phoenix Open to join them has proved unpopular in some quarters.

Responding to critics on Twitter, Mickelson wrote: "After turning down opportunities to go to the Middle East for many years, I'm excited to go play and see a place in the world I've never been. I understand those who are upset or disappointed. You'll be ok. I'm excited to experience this for the first time."

Masters champion Woods will not be making the trip and, speaking ahead of the Hero World Challenge, he said: "I just didn't want to go over there - it is a long way to go.

"I understand the politics behind it. But also the game of golf can help heal a lot of that, too. It can help grow it [the game]. And also a lot of top players are going to be playing there that particular week.

“It's traditionally not a golf hotbed, the Middle East. But it has grown quite a bit. I remember going to Dubai for my very first time and seeing maybe two or three buildings in the skyline. Now there is a New York City skyline.

"Again, golf has grown. There were only a few courses when I went to Dubai and now they're everywhere. Same with Abu Dhabi, and maybe eventually in Saudi Arabia."

Jon Rahm has been named European Tour Golfer of the Year.

Rahm enjoyed a superb 2019, which he ended by winning the Race to Dubai with victory in the World Tour Championship last month.

He became the first Spaniard since the late great Seve Ballesteros to finish a year as European number one. 

Rahm prevailed in the Irish Open and Open de Espana as well as in Dubai, while recording two top-10 finishes at majors.

He was tied-ninth at The Masters and tied-third at the US Open, the latter performance at Pebble Beach marking his best finish at a major.

Rahm is the second Spaniard to win the award in the last three years, with Sergio Garcia having claimed it in 2017.

"It is a huge honour for me to be named the Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Year," said Rahm. "To emulate another of Seve's achievements in winning this award is very humbling, and I'm so proud of what I have achieved this year.

"To win both the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and DP World Tour Championship for a second time, as well as defend the Open de Espana, were all incredible moments.

"But to finish the year as winner of the Race to Dubai is something I'm incredibly proud of achieving at this early stage in my career."

Tiger Woods is aware he must "do everything right" if he is to catch Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles.

Masters champion Woods, who turns 44 this month, moved his career tally to 15 this year with a stunning success at Augusta.

The American believes Nicklaus' tally remains a realistic target but acknowledges he cannot afford to let any opportunities slip by as he reaches the latter stages of his career.

Asked if Nicklaus' mark was still attainable, Woods told reporters: "I think it is. 

"I have to do everything right. I have to have all the pieces come together. It has taken Jack a lifetime to get there, until he was 46.

"I'm just proud of what I've done, to come back from where I came back from to win another major championship but also to do it in a different way.

"I've finally come from behind to win a major championship. I finally know that I can do that now. I had never done it; 14-1 is not a bad record but I had never done it this way."

Woods will make his first appearance since winning the Zozo Championship in October at the Hero World Challenge in The Bahamas this week.

He revealed he finally sat down to watch his memorable Masters success with caddie Joe LaCava once his season ended in the aftermath of his success in Japan.

Woods believes he will be more contemplative when he defends his title once the first major of 2020 comes around in April.

"I think we all get a bit more reflective as we age," Woods said. 

"My window is a lot smaller than it used to be so understanding that and recognising it is not a bad thing.

"I sat down and watched it with Joe. He came down [to Florida] to do a TV spot then he and I just sat there, had a few beers and watched it.

"We spoke about the conversations we had over each shot. Some of our friends and family who were there were like, 'Oh, my God, you guys really talked about that?' 

"But that's what we were talking about, that's what was going on. We were running through all the scenarios, Joe looking at the boards, I am looking at the boards. 

"We were trying to figure out what was going on; who birdied what, who was making a move. We were having those discussions in the fairway about what we needed to do while still staying focussed about executing.

"It was a lot of fun seeing it back and sharing it with Joe because he has been through all the tough times with me as well as the good times."

A hobbling Pablo Larrazabal fought back from a dismal collapse in round four of the Alfred Dunhill Championship to win his first European Tour event since June 2015.

Larrazabal's most recent victory had come four-and-a-half years ago at the BMW International Open, yet he looked on course for a comfortable triumph this week after leading by three shots following both the second and third rounds.

That was until a blister on Sunday saw a week's work undone in dramatic fashion, with an awful 41 on the front nine sending Larrazabal tumbling back down the leaderboard at five under.

"I woke up this morning and I didn't think I was going to play," he said afterwards in an emotional interview. "I couldn't put my shoe on, I couldn't walk to the buggy, I couldn't go to the putting green.

"I really struggled today. Front nine, I couldn't walk; back nine, I said to myself, going to 10, 'You cannot walk, you cannot swing'. I had a big blister on my right toe."

But Larrazabal found inspiration in the exploits of the great Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open, where he triumphed with a left knee missing an anterior cruciate ligament and two stress fractures of his left tibia.

Larrazabal continued: "I said to myself, 'If Tiger can win a U.S. Open with a broken leg, what is a blister?'"

The recovery was remarkable, as the Spaniard birdied three of the final four holes, clinching victory at Leopard Creek and avoiding a play-off against Joel Sjoholm with his putt at the last.

"It's been a long road," Larrazabal said. "I've really struggled the past four years. But this is where I want to be."

As well as his own guts, though, Larrazabal's victory owed a little to the failings of his rivals, with first-round leader Wil Besseling and home hopeful Branden Grace carding respective two-over and one-over rounds to finish alongside Charl Schwartzel, another South African, in a tie for third.

Sjoholm was second and unfortunate to miss out after his own stunning turnaround, having been at even par heading into the weekend.

He followed up Saturday's 68 with a competitive 69, but Larrazabal's three-over 75 improbably proved enough to triumph by a single stroke at eight under.

Dustin Johnson has withdrawn from the Hero World Challenge to focus on the upcoming Presidents Cup.

The American world number four underwent knee surgery in September and was set to play in the Bahamas beginning on Wednesday.

However, Johnson has withdrawn from the tournament and said Tiger Woods – the United States' Presidents Cup captain and Hero World Challenge host – was supportive of his decision.

"After a lot of careful thought and consultation, I have decided that it is in my best interest if I withdraw from next week's Hero World Challenge," he wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

"While my recovery from knee surgery is complete, I feel another week of physical therapy and practice will best prepare me for the Presidents Cup.

"I have informed captain Woods of my decision, which he fully supports and understands, and cannot wait to tee it up with him and my team-mates next week in Australia."

The Presidents Cup begins in Melbourne on December 12 as USA look to win the event for the eighth straight time.

Pablo Larrazabal retained his three-shot leading going into the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Seeking his first European Tour win since 2015, the Spaniard carded a two-under round of 70 on Saturday.

That maintained his advantage over first-round leader Wil Besseling, who matched his score, while home hope Branden Grace's 71 meant he slipped to four shots behind Larrazabal.

Zander Lombard and Marcus Armitage sit on five under par in a tie for fourth ahead of Sunday's action, six shots behind the leader.

It was Sweden's Joel Sjoholm who had the best round of the day at Leopard Creek with a 68 and he is one of four players sitting on four under.

Eight birdies in the first 13 holes had Sjoholm flying but he dropped a shot at the 16th and double-bogeyed the last in a blow to his hopes of challenging the leaders.

Leader Larrazabal, whose most recent triumph came at the BMW International Open in June 2015, had five birdies and dropped three shots in a steady effort, though one of his bogeys came on the 17th and denied him the chance to extend his advantage.

He earlier overcame finding the water for one of his other dropped shots at the seventh and goes into round four in a strong position with the field well spread out behind him.

Pablo Larrazabal holds a three-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Alfred Dunhill Championship after carding 69 on day two at Leopard Creek Country Club.

The Spaniard hit a six-under-par 66 in his first round in South Africa, and six birdies on Friday ensured he moved three shots clear of overnight leader Will Besseling and home favourite Branden Grace.

It was not all smooth sailing for Larrazabal, who double-bogeyed the seventh with a tee shot that landed in the water, though four successive birdies on the back nine gave him the edge.

His run on the back nine included a remarkable, 100-foot putt from the edge of the green on the 12th.

"It was a good job, it wasn't an easy day," said Larrazabal, who did not take up the chance to wear shorts in sweltering conditions at Leopard Creek, in quotes reported on the European Tour's official website.

"The wind was swirling around and gusting and this golf course was tough. I made a big mistake on the seventh, I didn't trust what my game plan was, but I was playing good enough to start making birdies again and that's what I did.

"I had a lot of patience out there. I know I'm playing good, I know I'm playing aggressive enough to make birdies and get on a run. If you have patience out there the putts are going to drop, they did drop today and I'm happy with a 69."

South African Grace, who has won four European Tour titles on home soil, and triumphed at Leopard Creek in 2014, hit 70, while Basseling bounced back from three bogeys with two birdies to stay in the mix.

Grace's compatriot Thomas Aiken shares fourth place with English duo Jack Singh Brar and Marcus Armitage. Eddie Pepperell - the highest-ranked player in the competition - is tied for 28th after carding a par 73.

Jason Day has withdrawn from the Presidents Cup due to a back injury, with Byeong Hun An replacing the Australian in the International Team.

Day had been set to make his fifth appearance at the event, but Ernie Els has now had to call up a replacement in the form of An, who has had three top 10 and eight top-25 finishes in the 2018-19 PGA Tour season.

An's 15th-placed finish on the International Team standings saw him miss out on an automatic place in Els' squad, though he has started the 2019-20 season well.

"We wish Jason well and hope his back recovers quickly. We were eager to have Jason as part of the team at Royal Melbourne and his experience will be missed," captain Els said in quotes reported by the official Presidents Cup website.

"The good news is that there were a number of strong and qualified players available to choose from when I made my captain's selections.

"To have someone as steady and talented as Ben An puts us in a great position to succeed. Ben played extremely well this fall and throughout the year and he will fit in nicely on this team."

The event - which sees the United States, captained by Tiger Woods, take on Els' International Team - takes place at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club from December 9-15.

"I'm quite disappointed I won't be coming home to play in either the Australian Open in Sydney or the Presidents Cup the following week in Melbourne," said Day.

"I was quite looking forward to both events. I had been prepping all week in Palm Springs when I was injured. Frustratingly,

"I look forward to playing at home in the near future. My best to all the competitors in Sydney and my team-mates in Melbourne."

On a course where sightings of leopards, monkeys and even elephants are commonplace, it was Wil Besseling who proved a big-game player in the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

The Dutchman, one of several players in the field to take advantage of being allowed to wear shorts for the first time on the European Tour, carded a seven-under 65 to sit one shot clear in sweltering heat at Leopard Creek.

A three-man chasing pack consisting of Pablo Larrazabal, Garrick Porteous and Keith Horne provides the closest competition to Besseling, who has never won on the European Tour.

The event marks the start of the new Race to Dubai campaign but world number 47 Eddie Pepperell is the highest ranked player in action in South Africa, the Englishman signing for a modest 71.

Besseling's card showed just one blemish, which came amid a run of three birdies and an eagle across five holes on the back nine. 

"I played nicely," said Besseling in quotes reported by the European Tour website. "It's a great start for the season and a great round. I'm very happy with my 65.

"I had it going nicely on the par fives. I was able to get there in two with irons and converted the birdies and an eagle on 15 really helped."

Horne was not the only man to give the home fans hope of a South African winner, with 2015 champion Branden Grace joining compatriots Daniel van Tonder and Thomas Aiken on four under. 

Tyler Duncan clinched his breakthrough PGA Tour victory after a sudden-death play-off at the RSM Classic.

Thirty-year-old Duncan celebrated his first career win thanks to a birdie on the second extra hole against Webb Simpson on Sunday.

A play-off was needed after Duncan and Simpson finished level at 19 under through 72 holes in Georgia.

Duncan had finished with a flurry by birdieing three of his final four holes, including his remaining two at Sea Island, for a five-under-par 65.

Fellow American and former U.S. Open winner Simpson, meanwhile, carded a final-round 67 on the Seaside Course.

A play-off ensued, and the pair parred the opening hole before Duncan birdied the par-four 18th the second time through.

"Just so happy to be here playing. To come out here and win, it's just unbelievable," Duncan said afterwards.

Colombia's Sebastian Munoz ended the tournament a stroke adrift following his two-under-par 68.

Brendon Todd's hat-trick bid faltered as he finished outright fourth at 16 under after a forgettable two-over-par 72.

Not since Dustin Johnson in 2017 had anyone won three straight starts on the PGA Tour, while not since Tiger Woods in 2006 had anyone claimed three successive tournaments on the Tour schedule.

Todd – coming off wins at the inaugural Bermuda Championship and Mayakoba Golf Classic – was unable to secure his third consecutive victory, despite starting the day with a two-shot lead.

Tommy Fleetwood expressed his pride after just missing out on a dream finish to the season and declared it was "Jon's time" after Jon Rahm pulled off a lucrative Dubai double.

Fleetwood made a blistering finish at the DP World Tour Championship on Sunday, birdying five of the last seven holes to sign for a seven-under 65 and join Rahm at the top of the leaderboard.

Both players knew a victory at Jumeirah Golf Estates would also be enough to win the Race to Dubai and it was Rahm who achieved that feat, sinking a short birdie putt at the last to card a 68 and finish 19 under.

Fleetwood claimed his first title for 20 months at the Nedbank Golf Challenge seven days earlier and he was left with mixed emotions, but took the positives out of a strong end to 2019.

"Of course there's always going to be a little bit of disappointment there, but for the most part I wasn't in it, I got myself back in it and I am very proud of the way I played on that back nine," said the Englishman.

"Jon's time, Jon's moment. He's played unbelievable this year and fair play, great birdie down the last and I'm just happy with my week."

Fleetwood is looking forward to recharging his batteries before continuing where he left off at the start of next year.

He added: "I'm looking forward to a break first. I'm looking forward to waking up tomorrow with nothing to do. Kids can go to school, Clare [Fleetwood's wife and manager] can do a bit of work and I can do nothing.

"That's going to be really nice and then get back at it when I do get the clubs out again, but for now I'm just ready for a break.

"These last two weeks have definitely painted the season in a brand new light and I have a lot more satisfaction than before. I'll have a break and get ready to crack on next year."

Jon Rahm was crowned this year's Race to Dubai winner after a birdie at the 18th hole secured the DP World Tour Championship for a second time in his career.

The Spaniard had held a six-shot lead at one stage during the final round, only for playing partner Mike Lorenzo-Vera and a fast-finishing Tommy Fleetwood to close the gap and set up a tense finish.

Fleetwood carded five birdies over the final seven holes to set the clubhouse lead at 18 under par, leaving him to sit and watch on as his 2018 Ryder Cup team-mate finished his round.

Rahm found a bunker with his approach shot to the par-five 18th but held his nerve to get over the line, chipping onto the green before rolling in a putt that not only clinched the tournament but also confirmed he will end the season as the European Tour's number one.

"I feel like I'm going to start crying," an emotional Rahm - who also triumphed at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in 2017 - told Sky Sports. "Man, it was such an up-and-down day.

"[On the] eighth tee I had a six-shot lead and I came down 18 needing a birdie to win. It was hard trying to battle out there, I kind of lost the swing a little bit."

He added: "Hard to believe that besides the putt, the first three shots on 18 is about as calm as I've been all day.

"I told myself on 18, 'How many times do you dream of having to birdie the last hole to win a tournament?'. I hit the best drive of the week, a great four iron the wind didn't take, an outstanding bunker shot and then made the putt."

Rahm's eventful score of 68 mixed eight birdies with four bogeys. He had started the week sitting third in the Race to Dubai standings, but a fourth title on the Rolex Series made sure he will finish 2019 on top.

In doing so, the 25-year-old becomes only the second Spaniard to win the European Tour's order of merit, following in the footsteps of the legendary Seve Ballesteros.

As for Fleetwood, his seven-under 65 was enough to finish alone in second place, with three putts on the final green forcing Lorenzo-Vera to settle for third.

Having led the way in the Race to Dubai going into the final event, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger slipped down the final standings after taking a share of 28th place.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.