Theo Walcott struggled to deliver on such high promise after being thrown on the world stage at a young age. Will the same be said of Nicolai Hojgaard in years to come?
The world gasped when Sven-Goran Eriksson chose 17-year-old Theo Walcott in his 2006 World Cup squad.
Walcott joined a golden age of English footballers in Germany while the pedigree of Andy Johnson and Jermaine Defoe was left at home.
A career of goals and glory was on the cards. Sven saw something in this fresh-faced striker that could take England forward for years to come.
But despite 12 years playing for Arsenal and earning 47 caps for his country, Walcott achieved moderate success and struggled to justify the promise.
One would hope the same fate doesn’t befall Nicolai Hojgaard, an athlete about to enter the world stage just as Walcott did 17 years ago.
The young Dane has a touch more experience heading into his Ryder Cup debut than the sprightly Walcott did. He is a two-time DP World Tour winner and has played in five major championships.
But facing Scheffler, Koepka, Spieth, Cantlay and the like is comparable to the prospect of Walcott encountering Ronaldo, Figo and co. in that quarter-final we don’t speak of.
“Suddenly you are surrounded by these top-quality players and you are thinking ‘do I deserve to be here?’,” Theo has said since.
Theo never stepped foot on the pitch at his first international tournament which led to more bewilderment at Eriksson’s decision to select him.
Much like the young Englishman, Hojgaard will be surrounded by an abundance of talent at the top of the tree whom Donald will look to if things become pear-shaped for Europe.
Could Hojgaard be granted a similar level of distrust by European captain Luke Donald and appear sparingly in each session in Italy?
Hojgaard was preferred to Adrian Meronk in the captain’s picks, a decision that’s divided opinion with many believing the Polish star’s pedigree was enough for a spot on Team Europe.
Perhaps for every Meronk, there is a Johnson and Defoe. Donald is looking to the future with Hojgaard who is tasked with filling the void left by Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia who are no longer eligible for the Ryder Cup.
The 22-year-old will be expected to carry the torch to Bethpage in 2025 and Adare Manor in 2027 as Europe look to build a new base of stars.
Walcott had his hands beneath the flame as Michael Owen’s England career began to wind down, but the 2006 World Cup was his first of only two tournament appearances.
His international career began too early and Many will hope this won’t be the case with Hojgaard and Team Europe.
The spotlight is shining on him through no fault of his own, much like Walcott. Maybe he’ll thrive, but we hope Hojgaard doesn’t suffer a similar bout of imposter syndrome in Rome.
What did you make of the Nicolai Hojgaard Ryder Cup selection? Tell us on X, formerly Twitter!
How old is Nicolai Hojgaard?
Nicolai Hojgaard is 22 years old. He was born on March 12, 2001.
Who is Nicolai Hojgaard’s brother?
Nicolai has a brother named Rasmus who is also a player on the DP World Tour. Rasmus has won four times on the DP World Tour.
How many times has Nicolai Hojgaard won?
Nicolai Hojgaard has won twice on the DP World Tour. His first win was at the DS Automobiles Italian Open in 2021 and his second was at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship in 2022.
Where is Nicolai Hojgaard from?
Nicolai Hojgaard is from Denmark. He was born in Billund.
Will Nicolai Hojgaard play at the Ryder Cup?
Nicolai Hojgaard was one of six Captain’s picks chosen to represent Europe at the 2023 Ryder Cup. It will be his debut at the event.
Do the Ryder Cup captains actually matter?