Earlier this year, Rasmus Højgaard received a media request from a TV station in Denmark hoping to speak with him about qualifying for the U.S. Open. It made sense, especially given that the 19-year-old Dane is up to No. 65 in the world and has become an emerging star on the European Tour who will play in his first major championship this week at Winged Foot.
Højgaard refused the request, but he had a counteroffer in mind.
“He didn’t feel like it was a success just making it to the U.S. Open,” said his agent, Duncan Maxim. “He said, ‘If I win, I’ll give you an interview. I’m not going to do it just for qualifying.’ ”
That is the essence of Højgaard, a mysterious young man who wants to be seen only by the results of his play. And those results have some believing he is destined for Ryder Cups in the near future. What at first blush looks like abrasiveness is said to be more rooted in humility and determination, a pair of attributes Højgaard has used to block out nearly everything that isn’t about on-course performance.
A year ago, he became the first player born in the 21st century to graduate from European Tour Qualifying School. Then, in just his fifth tour start, he won the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open and cemented himself as the third-youngest winner in European Tour history. With that, he shattered countryman Thomas Bjørn’s record of taking 24 events to find his first win.
“Oh dear Rasmus, you interrupted my Christmas lunch today by me sitting down watching you on TV,” Bjørn said in a social media video shortly after the win. “Absolutely amazing, brilliant performance, and you owe me a turkey sandwich.”
Now in 2020, Højgaard can afford to send Bjørn plenty of turkey sandwiches. He is asserting himself as one of the tour’s best full-time players, ranking fourth in the Race to Dubai after contending at nearly every event since the tour restarted in July.
He was runner-up at the British Masters, tied for sixth at the Hero Open and finished third at the English Championship – all before capturing his second victory at the ISPS Handa UK Championship. A Sunday 65 pushed him past two-time major winner Martin Kaymer and world No. 32 Bernd Wiesberger, a clear statement that his first win shouldn’t be considered a fluke.
Højgaard is for real. We just don’t know much about him yet.
“He’s quite hard to read whether he’s happy or sad or frustrated,” said Mark Thistleton, TaylorMade’s European Tour rep who has worked closely with Højgaard during the past four years. “He seems to be almost emotionless. … Even in our range sessions I don’t think I’ve ever done a session with him where he has hit it particularly well.
“It’s kind of the way he is. He doesn’t get that fired up for practice sessions. He switches it on when he gets on the course, and that’s kind of what his personality is like.”
Adding to the intrigue of the quiet Dane is that his identical twin, Nicolai, also plays on the European Tour. When the brothers were amateurs, experts earmarked Nicolai as the better player given that he ascended to No. 5 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and won the 2018 European Amateur Championship. Rasmus played on the 2018 Junior Ryder Cup team alongside his brother and nearly cracked the top 20 of the rankings, but those keeping tabs felt like Nicolai had a higher ceiling. Thistleton said Nicolai’s ball speed is about 10 mph faster than that of Rasmus, although both rank among the European Tour’s longest hitters.
After both players eschewed college golf in the United States in favor of turning pro, Thistleton said Rasmus has matured faster than Nicolai. As Rasmus dominates, Nicolai has missed six cuts in his past seven starts and ranks No. 475 in the world. He did come within one stroke of forcing a playoff with Sergio García at last year’s KLM Open, but he is still searching for consistent form in his fledgling career.
“When they said they were considering turning pro last year, my advice was that they both were young and still had a lot to learn,” Thistleton said. “I was very much of the view that they should hang on a year, but when they went ahead, Rasmus definitely surprised us with how well he’s done in just one year as a pro.
“I think emotionally he matured years in a short span of time and once Nicolai gets there, I think you will see him do similar things as well.”
"We've always had this ambition of traveling the world together, playing in the same tournaments and, of course, playing for Europe."
While the brothers have turned away most media requests – including Global Golf Post’s – their rare comments have revealed a healthy rivalry between the two and a clear desire to play together in future Ryder Cups.
It was only 10 years ago when brothers Francesco and Eduardo Molinari represented Europe at Celtic Manor. What if identical twins accomplished that feat?
“We've always had this ambition of traveling the world together, playing in the same tournaments and, of course, playing for Europe,” Rasmus wrote in a recent blog post on the European Tour website. “There have been seasons where one of us has enjoyed a little more success but it has always evened itself out. When we were 10, we had almost the same handicap and it has been like that ever since.”
If that is the case, it can be expected that Nicolai soon will rise to join his brother among the best players on the European Tour. The eventual goal, it appears, is that they both would like to play the PGA Tour when the time comes.
Maxim, the agent who represents both brothers, summed up the two better than anyone.
“Just when you think you have them figured out, they kind of switch,” he said. “When they are out on the golf course, it’s business time for them. But when you are kind of away from the golf course, they are just two typical kids.”
Two kids who are polished well beyond their years. If they continue, pretty soon everyone will know their story.