ORLANDO, Fla. — As far as PGA Tour debuts go, it was a rather quiet and clearly disappointing one for a man widely regarded as Europe’s next big thing. Nicolai Hojgaard, on the other hand, is quick to point out that his time in America was not wholly fruitless.
Hojgaard won his second DP World Tour title a month ago, propelling him into the top 70 of the Official World Golf Ranking. Despite this, the young Dane, who will turn 21 in eight days, insists that two missed cuts in the United States will improve his game.
Hojgaard missed the weekend on his PGA Tour debut at the Honda Classic last week, shooting 76-72. In his second start, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, things didn’t go much better. After starting with a 75, he clawed his way back into contention with an eagle at the par-5 16th, but a closing double-bogey ensured an early exit. He wasn’t deflated, though.
“The results haven’t been great, but from a different perspective, it’s been great learning,” Hojgaard added. “In comparison to Europe, the course layouts are different. It’s more difficult. Greens are firmer and quicker, and the rough is thicker. You must play from the fairway, at specific angles, and so forth. That’s something you don’t see very often in Europe.”
Hojgaard’s first starts in the United States occurred at two of the most difficult locations on the schedule, thanks to invitations. He claims he was aware of PGA National’s dreadful reputation ahead of time, but confesses he was startled to see the same at Bay Hill. “I had no idea it was this difficult,” he admitted. “However, this is a reasonable set-up.” It’s playing quite well. Those that hit the fairways are rewarded.”
He admitted with a friendly shrug that he had failed to accomplish precisely that. “I had a good time.”
Hojgaard hit only six fairways in the first round on Thursday and only one more on Friday. He was one of the field’s longest hitters, but he was not in the top 100 in terms of driving accuracy (at PGA National, he was 11 of 28 in fairways hit). He hit 21 of 36 greens as a result of his erratic play. He derives hope from those figures.
“When I return back home, I think I’ll be a better player.” “It’s self-evident that there are some things I need to work on,” he said philosophically. “Even though I missed two cuts, I’m a better player.”
On the surface, that may appear to be a weird comment from a rising player who just won the DP World Tour a few weeks ago.
“It’s about understanding the game a little bit more when you play courses like these,” he explained. You don’t have to hit perfect shots, bomb it, or even strike it near to the target. You’ll need to be a little more strategic. This is what I discovered this week. Whereas in Europe, it’s been a little more ‘dart’ golf at times. That’s what I get out of it.”
Hojgaard’s punishment for missing two cuts is a two-week vacation back in Denmark. He’s hoping to make another PGA Tour start at the Corales Puntacana Championship later this month, maybe alongside his identical twin brother Rasmus, who is also a previous European Tour champion. Many analysts believe the twins will be future stars in Europe’s Ryder Cup firmament with a bit more seasoning.
Former Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn recently told The Guardian of his young countrymen, “They have everything.” “They know what they’re doing, they’re willing to learn, they work hard, and they don’t get ahead of themselves.”
For Nicolai, a willingness to learn entails spending more time on the Atlantic Ocean’s western side.
He stated, “I want to play here full-time and mix it up on the DP World Tour.” “I’d like to be a bit of a worldwide player, but I’d like to keep my concentration here.” His argument is based on American course layouts, which are frequently regarded as one-dimensional by PGA Tour regulars.
He said, “I really appreciate the set-up, the conditions, and the courses.” “If you play well, the golf here is more rewarding.” If you’re not playing well, you’ll be punished, thus I believe you’ll improve as a player if you play here.”
He packed up his luggage and snapped on his wristwatch, unfazed by his early departure. With a big smile, he replied, “It’s been a good two weeks.” “However, I’d like to play some weekend golf.”