DUBAI — They may be identical, but 2024 is going to be a bit different for the Hojgaard twins. Together this week at the Dubai Invitational and next week for the Dubai Desert Classic, the pair will then go their own ways. For Nicolai there is the excitement of starting his first season as a full member of the PGA Tour; for Rasmus the more prosaic prospect of three more tournaments in the Middle East, what he hopes will be a kick start to his last full season on the DP World Tour.
So life-altering stuff for the largely inseparable pair and a change that came so close to not happening. Had Rasmus not found the stream fronting the green on the final hole of the final event of the 2023 DP World Tour season and made birdie on the par 5 rather than his eventual regulation par, then the 22-year-old Danes would have been crossing the Atlantic together. That one-shot difference is all it would have taken for Rasmus to join his older brother (“by a few minutes,” points out a smiling Nicolai) on the plane to San Diego and the Farmers Insurance Open later this month.
That wasn’t the full story, of course. The shoulder injury that saw Rasmus miss two-and-a-half months early in 2023 surely had more to do with his subsequent “failure” than one slightly miscued shot. After a T-6 finish in Ras Al Khaimah last February, the four-time winner on the DP World Tour was absent until late April.
“And it was probably another two months before he was close to 100 percent again,” says Nicolai of his sibling. “For the last three months of the year he played some really good golf. He even had a shot at qualifying for the Ryder Cup. I know he was pissed at not getting the PGA Tour card. But I’m 100 percent certain he will have a great year. He’s working harder than I’ve ever seen. It would really surprise me if he doesn’t get his PGA Tour card come November.”
That’s the thing about the Hojgaard (pronounced “Hoygor”) brothers. Both are more comfortable talking about the other than they are about themselves. There certainly is no hint of anything other than love and respect when each discusses the other. Even the obvious awkwardness of Rasmus missing out at the same time as Nicolai won the DP World Tour Championship, did nothing to disturb that bond. “Close” clearly does not come close to describing their relationship.
“It was agonizing the way it happened,” says Nicolai of Rasmus coming up so, well, agonizingly short. “But he is going to get to the PGA Tour as well. He’s too good not to. But yes, that day was awkward. It definitely took some of the celebration out of it for me. When Rasmus told me he was one shot from getting his card there was no point in me shouting and screaming. I felt worse for him than I felt good about winning the tournament. I’m fine with that. Sometimes it is tough for both of us in situations where he is performing well and I’m not, or vice versa. It’s part of it though. He is great at supporting me when I need it. And I hope I am the same for him.”
Indeed, injury apart, it is hard to imagine the pair of them wouldn’t be planning a PGA Tour season that will see World No. 51 Nicolai move from the Farmers to Pebble Beach, a week off, the Genesis, then Mexico. In contrast, Rasmus—tied for seventh heading into the final round in Dubai and beating Nicolai by four strokes through 54 holes—will be making his way through the likes of Ras Al Khaimah, Bahrain and Qatar. Not quite the same, but Rasmus is over the hump of last November’s disappointment.
“I am fine now,” he insists. “There are no issues. But yes, it was a tough one to take at the time. And it did take me a few days to get over. What made it tougher was that Nicolai won the tournament and I was so close to achieving a goal I had targeted all year. But I was OK after a couple of days. More than ever, I am motivated to play great golf. I’m all good. The goal this year is the same as it was in 2023. I want to be headed to the PGA Tour at the end of this DP World Tour season.”
Nicolai Hojgaard holds the DP World Tour Championship trophy after his win with his brother Rasmus (right) and his family and team celebrating his win. But Nicolai struggled to enjoy the moment knowing Rasmus had just missed earning a PGA Tour card for 2024.
Such an attitude is both understandable and admirable. For the last 12 months Rasmus has had to get used to watching his brother achieve dreams he shares. First, through securing more non-member FedEx Cup points than the No. 125 finisher in the standings at the end of last year’s RSM Classic, Nicolai earned full PGA Tour membership for 2024. Then, through the generosity of European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald, he was part of the Old World side that regained the trophy in Italy. Rasmus was there too, of course, driving fellow Dane and assistant captain Thomas Bjorn’s golf cart all week.
Still, the twins are going to have to get used to being apart—for what both think might be the longest period of their lives so far—in 2024. Last year did give them a taste of what to expect as Nicolai took advantage of sponsor’s invitations to secure his PGA Tour status. But, although they are making all the right noises, it is clear that neither is looking forward to the prospect of being thousands of miles from each other.
“I’m not saying it wouldn’t have been cool for Nicolai and I to go over there to the States and play together,” says Rasmus, who is ranked 87th in the world. “But we have known from the start that we are not necessarily going to be able to follow each other exactly throughout our careers. There was always a chance that one of us would get over there quicker than the other. But I’ll be there soon enough. To get as close as I did shows I was doing something right. It was just a tough year, but one that ended with me playing really well. There are obviously a lot of positives to take away from that.”
Indeed, even a glance at the big picture sees a future full of exciting prospects for both Hojgaards. What is a mere few months when a long career beckons beyond?
“We’ll still play a few events at the same time,” Nicolai points out. “The majors and the Scottish Open and a few European events in the fall. We just have to focus on our own careers this year. We need to find our own ways. So being on two different tours is OK for both of us. We know we will play together a lot in the future. We always get a lot out of each other when we do.”