Could Rasmus Hojgaard become first teenage golfer to win US Open since 1911?

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Rasmus Hojgaard has won two titles in his first 15 starts on the European Tour  - Getty Images
Rasmus Hojgaard has won two titles in his first 15 starts on the European Tour - Getty Images

There has not been a teenage winner of a male major since Johnny McDermott became the first American-born winner of the US Open in 1911. Now, 109 years on, could the great young Dane Rasmus Hojgaard be about to strike another, belated blow for the puppy brigade?

That is hefty expectation to pin on the admittedly broad shoulders of this product of Billund, the home of Lego HQ. But such are the statistics of Hojgaard’s dramatic start to professional life that the building blocks of hyperbole are inevitably being assembled.

After all, the last time a teenager went over to a US major having won two titles in his first 15 starts on the European Tour was in 1999. And then only Tiger Woods denied Sergio Garcia by a shot in that unforgettable USPGA at Medinah.

Garcia is an interesting comparison when it comes to Hojgaard. Thomas Bjorn, the 49-year-old who remains the greatest golfer Denmark has produced, evoked the Spaniard when talking to The Sunday Telegraph about his countryman, as Hojgaard heads to his first major, the 120th US Open at Winged Foot.

“Rasmus is the real deal, he has it, he’s just different and it’s hard to convey why,” Bjorn said. “When you see talent appear on the scene there is always an apparent weakness. But with Rasmus there isn’t. In my time, there haven’t been many you stopped to watch on the range. Tiger [Woods], Rory [McIlroy] of course, and when Sergio came along he was one we all quickly realised was special. Rasmus has a bit of that in him and anyone who plays with him says, ‘Wow’.

“Lee [Westwood] was very, very complimentary and that convinced me that, ‘No, I’m not watching through red and white glasses’. Although nobody could fault his results anyway.”

Indeed, they could not. Having won in Mauritius on only his fifth Tour start last December, Hojgaard prevailed again at the UK Championship two weeks ago. As daft as it seems, that follow-up success actually appeared overdue after he recorded a 2nd, 6th and 3rd in his three previous starts following the Tour’s resumption.

“The two titles he’s won were both in play-offs. Play-offs are nerve-racking at the best of times but when you are 19?” Bjorn said. “He has that belief, that sort of quiet cocky manner, that says, ‘I know what I’m doing’. But even though he is off to a flier, nobody should think it’s going to be like this forever. There are always downs whoever you are. So I’ve told to him just to enjoy it.

“But what’s also been impressive is how, in this lockdown and tournament bubbles, he has dealt with being away from his parents and for some of the time, Nicolai, as well. That must have been strange.”

Nicolai is his identical twin and a prospect whom Bjorn is convinced “is just as good”. As amateurs, the pair won their country its first Eisenhower Trophy – basically the World Team Championship – in 2018 and both then eschewed the chance of a US college place to join the paid ranks.

It was Nicolai who made the first splash in the big time when finishing second behind Garcia, on just his fourth start, at the Dutch Open last September. He has not since made the same progress as his brother, but with earnings of €250,000 (£231,000) in his first 18 months is hardly shabby even if it is cast into the shadow of the €600,000 accumulated by Rasmus.

Who can emulate Collin Morikawa?
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His remarkable run helped him top the mini “UK Swing” order of merit and that earned him his place in Thursday’s first round at the New York layout. Bjorn is intrigued how he will perform.

“All of a sudden he will stand on the first tee, on this extremely severe test, and all the big names will be there,” Bjorn said. “It’s a different world, but a world he will have to get used to. You can’t predict; some jump in and love it straight away, like Sergio, and some take a bit of time. Yet whatever happens, he is going to be up there for years to come and will be a part of this youth movement.

“Look at [Collin] Morikawa at 22 winning the USPGA and breaking into the world’s top five, look at Viktor Hovland [the 22-year-old Norwegian] and Matt Wolff [the 21-year-old American] and Sungjae Im [the 22-year-old South Korean] and don’t forget Sam Horsfield [the 23-year-old Englishman who is also in the US Open after his two recent European Tour wins]… all really just out here, but all already winners. They used to say you had to do the hard yards and wait until you’re 30, but that’s long gone. Tiger, Rory, Sergio changed that thought process. They are getting young.”