PGA Championship 2022: This rising Euro playing his first U.S. major knows where to go for advice
TULSA — American golf is currently witnessing a kind of golden generation, with a stacked roster of 20-somethings who are winning majors, vaulting up the World Ranking, and—last fall, anyway—dominating Ryder Cups. But what about the Europeans? Who are the leaders of their youth movement?
Ask this question to someone who knows, and you'll get a few answers, but none more frequent than the Hojgaard twins, Rasmus and Nicolai. At 21, they've already combined for five DP World Tour victories (three for Rasmus, two for Nicolai) A year ago at the PGA Championship, Rasmus, made his American major debut first, competing and making the cut at Kiawah Island. This week, it’s Nicolai’s turn, as he sits inside the world's top 100 at No. 88.
So can Nicolai learn something from his Rasmus’ experience?
The good news, at the very least, is that they're no longer at each other's throats. Time has taken the edge off a sibling rivalry that would escalate into outright feuds if one happened to play better than the other.
"Over the years, we're getting more mature and now we can talk to each other when the other one beats," Nicolai said Wednesday at Southern Hills. "Back in the days, we were fighting. We could start fighting after … if I shoot a good round and Rasmus played bad or the other way around."
Now, they're more collaborators than antagonists. Rasmus was happy to share intelligence about his experiences last year in Kiawah, and Nicolai was glued to the television watching him anyway. The information they shared jived with what Nikolai himself experienced earlier this season, when he missed the cut at the Honda Classic, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Corales Puntacana Championship in his first foray into American professional golf. His biggest takeaway: He needs more discipline. When the setups are tougher and birdies more difficult to come by, you need to build a series of holes, then a round, then a tournament. And it doesn't make it easier that the competition is stiffer.
"I think the majority of players here are just better than Europe," he said. "Wedges, putting, I see a difference. I enjoy watching how good these guys are with their wedges and putter. That's why you can get it around with your 'C' game instead of just relying on really good ball-striking. That's also one of the things I've learned during those two weeks and then something I keep working on because it's a huge asset when you've got a good short game."
Other elements Rasmus conveyed to him ahead of Southern Hills include the shock of the climate—it's far hotter in the U.S. generally, and this week will be no exception—and the size and passion of the American galleries, which dwarfs what they find on the former European Tour.
The exception to that rule is the Ryder Cup. Neither Hogjaard has played in it yet, but their names are mentioned frequently when discussing Europe's future prospects. Nicolai said it's one of their top goals but urged caution.
"It's a good thing when your name gets put on the table maybe or talked a little bit about," he said. "But obviously me and Rasmus got loads of things we have to prove before we even qualify or get to a team."
Regardless, whether it comes to the PGA Tour, American majors or the Ryder Cup, they're in it together.
"We'll keep supporting each other. Hopefully we play the same place and win tournaments and battle it out on a Sunday," Nicolai said. "Without each other we probably wouldn't be here. That's what we always say. I think that's true. He's useful, and hopefully he says the same thing about me."
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