Good things often come in pairs, especially when their names happen to be Rasmus and Nicolai Højgaard, the 21-year-old Danish twins who are fast becoming the hottest properties on the European circuit following fast starts to their professional careers
It’s not uncommon for siblings to enjoy success at the very top levels of the same sport. Bobby and Jack Charlton, Gary and Phil Neville, Gavin and Scott Hastings, Rory and Tony Underwood, Serena and Venus William, Andy and Jamie Murray, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, Steve and Mark Waugh, Francesco and Eduardo Molinari, Jessica and Nelly Korda – sporting history is littered with pairs of brothers and sisters who have achieved international accolades while playing in the elite echelons of the same game.
What is rarer, indeed of that list, only the Waugh brothers fit the bill, are twins who have reached the top of their sporting trees. But thanks to the exploits of a pair of young Danish identical golfing twins, you can now also add the names of Rasmus and Nicolai Højgaard to membership that rarified club.
And while it might be more than a trifle premature to be burdening either player with the tag of greatness, or even putting them in the same ballpark as the record-breaking exploits of the Waugh boys, the achievements of the 21-year-old Danish duo to date have so far marked them out as seriously talented and certainly ones to look out for.
Golf, and winning, has been a key part of Nicolai and Rasmus’ lives from an early age, both competing at the Danish National Championships in the U10 junior category, claiming first and second places. In 2016, Rasmus went on to become Danish Amateur champion and, two years later, Nicolai became the European Amateur champion. They were also both members of the Danish side that won the European Boys’ Team Championship in 2017 and competed for Europe in the 2018 Junior Ryder Cup in Paris, where both won their singles matches in a narrow one-point defeat to the US. Later that same year the twins, who are hard to tell apart in their golf gear, finished 1-2 in the Toyota Junior World Cup, with Rasmus finishing four shots ahead of Nicolai to maintain bragging rights over his elder sibling.
Since turning professional at the beginning of 2019, aged 18, the brothers, as you might perhaps expect, given the similarity of their early amateur performances, have gone on to achieve almost matching arcs in the paid ranks. Both players made a few early forays in Nordic Golf League, before switching to Challenge Tour. Rasmus was runner-up in his second event, the Challenge de España, and although he had six further top-10 finishes, his 21st position in the Order of Merit wasn’t quite enough to earn automatic promotion to the European Tour. Undeterred, Rasmus took fifth spot at Qualifying School in November to gain a place on the top tier tour for the 2020 season.
Just two events into his rookie season on what is now the DP World Tour, Rasmus won the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, taking the title after three-man playoff against Renato Paratore and Antoine Rozner. In doing so, he became the first player born in the 21st century to win on the Tour. Seven months later he doubled his winning tally, when capturing the ISPS Handa UK Championship after beating Justin Walters in a play off at The Belfry, while almost exactly a year later, in August 2021, he bagged his third tour win when firing a final round 63 to win the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.
Not to be outdone, Nicolai was also quick off the professional blocks, finishing second behind Sergio Garcia in the European Tour’s KLM Open in September 2019, and going on to finish 140th in the Order of Merit after competing in just seven events through invitations. However, while Rasmus was ripping it up in 2020, Nicolai had a more difficult time of it on his first full season on the top tier, making the cut in just seven of 18 events, and failing to win his card after finishing 206th in the money list with just €35,000 in seasons earnings. After winning his card back at Q School, he bounced back in 2021, bagging a couple of early top-10 finishes before breaking into the winner’s circle with victory in the Italian Open, making a birdie at the final hole to beat Tommy Fleetwood and Adrian Meronk by a single shot. That win came the week after Rasmus had won in Switzerland, completing a remarkable fortnight for the Hojgaard family.
Nicolai followed up his breakthrough win with a runner-up finish in the Portugal Masters and a fourth at the DP World Tour Championship, and ended his first full season on tour in a heady eighth place in the money list with over €1.2m in prize money. Last year, saw him slip back in the rankings to 71st, with 11 missed cuts from 23 outings, but a second tour victory, this time at February’s Ras Al Khamirah Classic in the UAE, where he shot a -24 total to win by four, meant that the brothers had combined to win five events in the space of just two-and-half seasons on tour.
Asked if one’s performance spurs on the other, Nicolai says: “One hundred percent. We’ve been competitive with each other ever since we’ve been able to swing a club, right from our the junior days at club and national level, and now into the international professional ranks. We always wanted to beat each other as kids, and now we get to do it alongside 154 players each week. We definitely fire each other on, and while we always support each other 100%, we’ll be out there trying to beat each other every week. He got a few wins under his belt quite fast, and we’ve had some good competition going on, so it has been good to get a couple back on him.”
Rasmus adds: “We share each other’s experiences from winning and from those tough moments. I learned a lot from Nicolai because he was struggling quite a bit in 2020, while I was playing pretty well. I knew that was tough on him, but he got past that, and we’ve spoken a lot about it. There were definitely a lot of things I could take from that, and it’s nice to share both the good times and the more difficult times together.”
This season has so far pointed to further improvement from the pair, with Nicolai having yet to miss a cut from five events, including two top-10s; while Rasmus, who finished the 2022 season in 16th place in the DP World Tour rankings, has bagged top-20 finishes from both his starts in 2023 – he missed the early part of the season after injuring his shoulder playing Padel tennis – and also looks set to build on what has already amounted to an impressive start to professional life, especially given that their early seasons were played under Covid restrictions.
One person who will certainly be keeping a close eye in their performances over the next six months will be Luke Donald, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, who has the unenviable task of trying to muster 12 men to take on the collective might and power of an American team that is bristling with major champions and top-ranked talent. With both teams likely to have to soldier on without the addition of LIV Golf players, the door to the European camp has been swung widely open with the potential absence of stalwarts such as Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter. And it’s a door that both Hojgaard brothers would love to walk through should their performances earn them an automatic pick or one of Donald’s six captain’s picks.
With Rasmus currently 105th in the world rankings, and Nicolai slightly lower down the pecking order in 142nd, both players still have some way to go to be considered absolute shoe-ins for Donald’s team, but Rasmus is currently eighth in the European team points list, just two places outside of automatic selection, while Nicolai is just a couple of decent performance away from being a form choice. Notions that either would be offered a slot in the team just to create a bit of golfing history are fanciful, and it’s something neither player would benefit from considering the pressures that have historically been exerted on those who fail to earn their place in the team by rights.
Nicolai, perhaps the outsider of the two in Ryder Cup terms, did his chances no harm when stepping in as a late replacement for his injured brother at January’s Hero Cup – a Europe v GB&I team match play event that took place in Abu Dhabi by way of a Ryder Cup warm-up – and winning his singles match against Ireland’s Seamus Power in a high-quality match that went the full distance. Given the quality of their ball striking, and length off the tee – both average almost 320 yards with the driver – it’s not hard to imagine that the Hojgaards would make for a pretty strong pairing should the captain come calling.
Talking about their hopes of perhaps one day, if not this year, representing Europe together, Rasmus, who is the younger of the brothers by a few minutes, said: “There’s a long way to go and there’s a lot of golf to be played, so it’s easy to get too far ahead, but I think I’ve got a good chance if I keep focusing on the right things and do the right work, so it’s definitely a big goal of mine.”
“Especially having Thomas [Bjorn] as a vice-captain,” Rasmus adds. “Nic and I have a good relationship with him, and he obviously wants us on the team as well. That would be a cool experience to share with Nicolai as well, maybe play a foursome together.”
The performances of the brothers over the last three seasons on tour has also caught the eye of the marketing team at Callaway Golf, with the company splashing out over Christmas break on multi-year contracts for both Rasmus and Nicolai to join its growing roster of global tour stars. Both players are currently packing a full bag of Callaway and Odyssey equipment, including the newly launched Paradym driver and the company’s Chrome Soft ball.
Peter Harrison, Callaway’s Director of Tour Relations, is no doubt that they have bagged two of the most exciting talents to emerge on the European scene in some years. He said: “Rasmus and Nicolai join us at a hugely significant time in their careers. They are undoubtedly both superstars of the future, already proving they are born winners, and their Tour victories in recent years are just the beginning. We are thrilled to welcome them both to Callaway and offer them the very best equipment and technology to take their games to the next level, whether that’s on the DP World Tour, competing in the Majors, or playing in future Ryder Cups.”
Whether all three of those things happen to both brothers remains to be seen, but it will be fun finding out. Just make sure you get the right initial if you’re having a bet on it!
RASMUS BY NUMBERS
World Ranking: 105 (highest 63)
DP World Tour appearances: 68
Cuts Made: 49 (72%)
Wins: 3 (Mauritius Open, ISPS UK Championship, European Masters)
Major Appearances: 2
Average Driving Distance: 321 yards
Greens in Regulation: 69% (’22), 70% (’23)
Scoring Average: 70.23 (‘22), 69.92 (‘23)
Prize Money: €2.97m
WHAT’S IN RASMUS’S BAG?
Driver: Callaway Paradym Triple Diamond (8.5°)
Fairway Wood: Callaway Paradym HL 3 (16.5°)
Utility: Callaway UW Raw (21°)
Irons: Callaway MB Proto (4-10)
Wedges: Callaway JAWS MD5 Raw (50°), Callaway JAWS Full Toe (56°, 60°)
Putter: Toulon Design Le Mans Tour
Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X
NICOLAI BY NUMBERS
World Ranking: 141 (highest 67)
DP World Tour appearances: 79
Cuts Made: 42 (53%)
Wins: 2 (Italian Open, Ras Al Khaimah Championship)
Major Appearances: 3
Career Earnings: €2.17m
Average Driving Distance: 318 yards
Greens in Regulation: 66% (‘22), 72% (‘23)
Scoring Average: 71.31 (‘22), 69.91 (‘23)
WHAT’S IN NICOLAI’S BAG?
Driver: Callaway Paradym Triple Diamond (10.5°)
Fairway Woods: Callaway Rogue ST Triple Diamond HL (16.5°), Callaway Paradym Triple Diamond (18°)
Irons: Callaway MB Proto (4-10)
Wedges: Callaway JAWS Raw (50°), Callaway JAWS Full Toe (56°, 60°)
Putter: Toulon Design Chicago
Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X