Bjorn predicting Nicolai Hojgaard has the potential to match McIlroy

Bernie McGuire

Nicolai Hojgaard (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Legendary Danish golfer Thomas Bjorn reckons younger compatriot Nicolai Hojgaard has the potential to match Rory McIlroy at the dizzy heights of world golf while the 2018 Ryder Cup-winning captain predicts Nicolai’s twin brother, Rasmus could match Masters-winning Aussie Adam Scott in career achievements.

At the close of the 2022 DP World Tour’s four-event ‘Middle East Swing’, the 20-year-old Danish duo lie 10th (Nicolai) and 35th (Rasmus) on the Race to Dubai money list and the twins now share five Tour wins between them and three in the past six months.

Nicolai bagged a third Tour title last fortnight with his four-shot success at the RAK Golf Championship at the Al Hamra course in the UAE emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. At 70th in the world, Nicolai is the highest-ranked, 40 spots higher than Rasmus.

Bjorn reached a career World Ranking high of No. 16 in capturing the 2000 BMW International Open though in speaking with him last week at Al Hamra in the UAE, he predicted the twins to go onto winning majors and represent Europe for many years to come at Ryder Cup level.

“I have not seen a golf game that Nicolai’s got since Rory (McIlroy) came onto the scene, in the sense of how big the game is and how big the potential is in how far he can go in the game,” said Bjorn.

“I’m not saying that Nicolai can become the player that Rory now is, so maybe not yet but yes, he has potentially the ability to achieve what Rory has done.

“As for Rasmus, I see his game more like an Adam Scott in that he keeps plodding along but is still a big, powerful and mature figure in the pro game.

“That’s how I see the twins and I am not saying something that they have not already heard.  They’re both great kids and it is really a joy to watch them.”

In speaking of the biennial Ryder Cup showdowns, Bjorn reckons the golfing twins have a strong chance to qualify for the 2023 European team chosen to head to Rome and to also go onto to future Ryder Cups where Bjorn says the real likelihood that they will be teamed together in what would also be a first in a Ryder Cup.

“They each have a very good chance of being in Rome, and I mean both of them though the danger with the Ryder Cup is that a Ryder Cup is a big occasion and you can be too young and that’s a factor,” said Bjorn.

“I am not saying they are too young but you can be too young. It’s all about getting in the right frame of mind, getting in the right position within the team of qualifying, and not to be getting ahead of themselves as there will be plenty of Ryder Cups for them to play but they could easily each be there in Rome.

“We are going to see that Europe is going to go through this generation change and it should pretty much be the next Ryder Cup because we do need some younger players in the team, and we need for newer players to come through and take their place in a Ryder Cup.

“I feel the sooner they do get themselves into the team the quicker they will enjoy and benefit from wanting to play their first Ryder Cup on home European soil. That is always a nice achievement with the Ryder Cup, and to play your first Ryder Cup on home soil.

“As for pairing them in a Ryder Cup? I can easily see the day they will be both playing in a Ryder Cup and if I were the captain, I probably would pair them together, if they were there in the same European team.

“For their first Ryder Cup, and whenever that is, they will be rookies. They will be new so you’ve gotta go with what you see and what fits the team but they play all their golf together and they see each other in and out, and they know each other’s strengths and how they react to each other.

“I wouldn’t be scared of putting them out together.”

We saw last September, the Americans debuted a new-look, red-hot team with many new faces and not scared of any competition confrontation. Europe is also heading for a change of the ‘old guard’ opening the door for the likes of World No. 1 Jon Rahm and hot-shot Norwegian Viktor Hovland to spearhead Europe’s newer breed.

And it’s the likes of Rahm and Hovland that Bjorn sees Europe also drawing back level with our American team rivals.

“Jon and Viktor are going to be in the Ryder Cup for a long time,” said Bjorn. “They are going to be so good for Europe for so many years to come. Jon’s the best golfer I have seen since Tiger. He’s just a phenomenal player. He really is.

“And there’s Viktor. Such a talented golfer and also such a nice young fellow, and he’s burst onto the tours like a breath of fresh air.

“Both Jon and Viktor are so level-headed, the feet planted firmly on the ground and with Viktor a seemingly nice Norwegian athlete (smiling). Those Norwegians never get ahead of themselves (still smiling).”

Clearly, the career path presented to the Hojgaard twins is very different from that which Bjorn and fellow Danes Soren Kjeldsen, Steen Tinning, Anders Hansen, Soren Hansen, and so on were staring out at in turning pro.

“I turned to Seve and Faldo (smiling) because there were no Danes on the European Tour, so you had to look outside the borders,” said Bjorn. “You looked at the greatest players playing the game at that time. That’s who you tried to follow and identify with.

“For a young player like me growing up in Denmark, there was no one living around the corner who I could go and see or talk to.”

Here Bjorn congratulates the work of the coaches at the Danish Golf Federation and their work with both male and female young golfers.

“You have to give a lot of credit to the Danish Golf Federation and what they are doing with their appointment of coaches and they have a great way about them, working hard at junior level and that driving force comes from the Federation,”  said Bjorn.

“I never had a great relationship in my earlier career with the Federation but the make-up of the Federation has changed dramatically, and that’s both in working with both male and female golfers.

“We’re seeing the results of the Federation’s drive and the excellent work they’re doing with Emily Pederson and Nanna Koerstz Madsen becoming the first Danes to compete on the same Solheim Cup team. They joined Iben Tinning as the only three Danes to represent their country in a Solheim Cup, so that can only be good for Danish women’s golf.

“So, both men’s and women’s golf in Denmark is in a very good position, and it can only get better.”

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