Golf-Masters rookie Hojgaard gets Amen Corner lesson

By Thomson Reuters Apr 13, 2024 | 9:09 PM

By Frank Pingue

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) – Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard had a short-lived stint atop the leaderboard on Saturday before the Masters debutant quickly got acquainted with the perils of Amen Corner.

Hojgaard, bidding to become the first Masters rookie to win a Green Jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller 1979, carded a two-over-par 74 that left him at two-under on the week and five strokes back of third-round leader Scottie Scheffler.

While the 23-year-old Hojgaard knew he was in the midst of putting together an impressive round in tricky conditions, he was unaware that he was actually leading the year’s first major.

“No, not really. I didn’t really think about it, where I was,” said Hojgaard. “Whatever, I was in a position where I was really good mentally, playing really good golf. Hit a couple loose shots.”

Hojgaard made three consecutive birdies around the turn to supplant playing partner Scheffler atop the leaderboard after the world number one had just double-bogeyed the 10th.

But at the par-four 11th, which marks the beginning of the three-hole stretch known as Amen Corner and which has thwarted many Sunday runs for the Masters title, Hojgaard made the first of five consecutive bogeys to drop down the leaderboard.

Hojgaard simply had no answers for the notoriously tricky layout and finally stopped the bleeding when he made a 10-foot par save at the par-three 16th, something he naturally wished he could have done much earlier.

“If I knew the formula, I probably would have done it out there. It’s just tricky. The course is playing tricky,” said Hojgaard, who is five shots back of 54-hole leader Scheffler and in a share of sixth place.

“I was probably in a period of my game where it was a little bit tricky and a little bit – yeah, a little bit out of position, but sometimes it’s tough to turn it around.”

While Hojgaard’s round came undone, fellow Scandinavian Ludvig Aberg of Sweden, making his major championship debut, went one under through Amen Corner en route to a two-under-par 70 that left him three shots off the lead.

With a win, Aberg would become the third player since the inception of the Masters in 1934 to win a major in his first attempt, joining Ben Curtis (2003 British Open) and Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA Championship).

While some golfers in unfamiliar territory at a major championship try not to overthink what is within their grasp, Aberg admitted he is absolutely thinking about how big an opportunity is ahead.

“I don’t think you should shy away from it. I don’t think you should try to push it away,” said the 24-year-old Swede. “I try to embrace it, and I try to be OK with all that comes with it, I guess.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by William Mallard)