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Masters 2024

Masters 2024: Why an angry Nicolai Hojgaard could be trouble for weekend contenders

April 12, 2024
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Nicolai Hojgaard hits his drive on 18 in the second round.

Warren Little

AUGUSTA, Ga. — He wasn’t happy. That was clear and, perhaps, fair enough. The conclusion to Nicolai Hojgaard’s second round in his first Masters hadn’t gone well. “Decent” drives on Augusta National’s last two holes eventually bequeathed a brace of sloppy bogey 5s, dropped shots that left the Dane on four under par for the 36 holes played. Not too shabby. But ultimately disappointing nonetheless, at least for the man himself.

“I would love to play 17 and 18 again,” he shrugged after adding a second round of 73 to his opening 67. “I hate shooting over par, especially when you end up making a couple of mistakes in the end. Still, the game feels pretty good in general. I’m just very disappointed in how I made some silly mistakes on the last couple holes.”

Ah, but there is more to Hojgaard’s obvious discontent than his initial frustration. Lurking just under the surface is a warning too. To others that is. As his record of achievement over the last four years indicates clearly, this is a player with the potential to win at the very highest level. He knows that to be true, and it would be surprising to hear those around him on the leaderboard at this 88th Masters are not well aware, too.

And why not? Over the course of what is now five-year professional career, the older of the identical Hojgaard twins (Rasmus is but a few minutes younger) has already ticked many boxes. A maiden victory on the DP World Tour came along in 2021. Another followed in 2022. And the third, the season-sending 2023 DP World Tour Championship, came not much more than a month after Nicolai made his Ryder Cup debut in Europe’s winning cause.

None of which has come as any surprise to just about anyone who has followed the 23-year old’s steady progress in golf. A member of the Danish side (alongside his brother) that claimed the World Amateur Team Championship in 2018, Nicolai won the European Amateur Championship that same year and ascended to no. 1 in the World Amateur rankings. He turned professional with big expectations.

“In life and in your career, you sometimes stumble across people who are a bit different,” said former Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, whose three runner-up finishes represent the closest anyone has come to breaking Denmark’s duck in major championships. “The twins fall into that category, both of them. But it is Nicolai who puts more demands on himself. They both do, but he more than Rasmus and sometimes too much. He is sometimes a bit extreme in wanting to achieve.”

That is nothing new, of course.

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Nicolai (left) and Rasmus Hojgaard hold the Eisenhower Trophy after the 2018 World Amateur Team Golf Championships.

Matt Browne

“I took the twins to the Danish age-group championships when they were 12,” their father, Ole, a one-handicapper, has said. “It was a two-day event. I think Nicolai was playing off 15 [index] and went round in five over par. He was leading by two from Rasmus. On the way home, they were sitting in the back seats, saying nothing. Halfway home, I told them we needed to have a talk. I told them only one of them could win. And maybe neither of them would win. But we have a chance that one of you will. I asked them to promise that, whatever happened, they would each support the other.

“One day later, they were in the leading group. And Rasmus won by one stroke from Nicolai. Nicolai four-putted the 18th green. I’m not sure he has forgotten that yet.”

He hasn’t.

“The first time we played in the age-group championships in Denmark, I four-putted the 18th green to lose by one to Rasmus,” confirmed Nicolai with what only loosely resembles a smile. “The car journey home was a bit tense.”

The next two days promise to be just that, especially if Hojgaard performs to anything like his best. And yes, the key might just be controlling his emotions when it matters most. He does, after all, have all the shots. That is not in question, as his total of 11 birdies so far this week amply illustrates.

“It comes down to situations and how you show your anger,” he said. “Showing too much is only going to encourage the other guy. I know when I see that in an opponent I think, ‘I’ve got him.’ So, to show emotion only tells the guy you want to beat that you are struggling. So I work on walking forward with my head high after I hit a bad one. I’m not going to show weakness. I’m not perfect, but I have a temper and sometimes that gets the best of me.

“I always think of Tiger when he won the 2019 Masters. He hit some weak shots, but never showed any emotion. And when he got his chance, he was there. He never gave anyone any extra motivation. He was so cool.”

All easier said than done, of course. But if all goes to plan, Denmark might just be on its way to a maiden major win, consigning that long ago four-putt to the dustbin of history.

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