The Meteoric Rise of Norway's Viktor Hovland
In the latest in our series looking at the new generation of golfing superstars, Derek Clements focuses on the meteoric rise of Norway’s Viktor Hovland.
Viktor Hovland is surely a future major champion and world number one - and nobody would have said that a couple of years ago. He made an immediate impact on the professional game but it was widely believed that he simply did not have the short game to compete at the very highest level.
It is a very different story now. The Norwegian has worked tirelessly on his short game and is now a world-class wedge player. And nobody wins the number of tournaments he has - on the courses he has - unless they hole more than their fair share of putts.
Hovland is not your typical golfer. He says: “I think I’m very open-minded. I’m curious. I’d like to think of myself as a thinker. I don’t take stuff for granted. I love discussions and arguments without having any preconceived biases. I just like to chat and try to figure things out and learn.
“Traveling to places, seeing cool places in the world. Mysteries kind of get my attention a little bit.”
Last year he drove 22 hours to Lofoten Links In Norway, just so that he could have a round of golf with some friends.
So just who is Hovland?
Vikor Hovland Profile
He was born on September 18, 1997, in Oslo.
Hovland started playing golf at the age of eleven, after his father Harald had taken up golf while working as an engineer in St. Louis. Five years later, in 2014, Hovland won the Norwegian Amateur Championship as a 16-year-old. It was to be the first of many major amateur titles.
From 2016 to 2019, he played college golf at Oklahoma State University.
Hovland won the US Amateur in 2018, becoming the first Norwegian player to do so, and earned invitations into the 2019 Masters, 2019 US Open and 2019 Open Championship.
He also played in the 2018 Australian Open, serving notice of his talent by finishing tied for 13th place.
He was the low amateur at Augusta in 2019, ending the week three under par in a tie for 32nd. With this performance he rose to number one in the World Amateur rankings. He followed it by finishing 12th at the US Open. With a score of 280, he was the low amateur yet again.
And his 72-hole total was the lowest by an amateur, breaking the previous record of 282, set by none other than Jack Nicklaus way back in 1960.
He also became the first golfer to claim low amateur honours at both The Masters and US Open in the same season since Matt Kuchar achieved the feat in 1998.
The same year, he also received the Ben Hogan Award, presented to the best college player in the United States.
He turned professional after the 2019 US Open - that is just over four years ago. Turning pro meant that he forfeited his right to compete at The Open.
He quickly gained his PGA Tour card after doing well at the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour finals and Hovland promptly set a PGA Tour record for most consecutive rounds in the 60s with 19 lasting into the second round of the CJ Cup in South Korea. He had served notice to the paid ranks that he was a very special talent.
All that was missing was a victory. And he didn’t have to wait long for that to change. In February, Hovland became the first Norwegian to win on the PGA Tour when he claimed the Puerto Rico Open.
His second success came in December 2020 when he picked up his second PGA Tour win, and his first at a full-strength PGA Tour tournament, by birdieing the 72nd hole at the Mayakoba Classic.
And in June 2021, Hovland became the first Norwegian to win on the DP World Tour when he took the BMW International Open. Later that year he qualified to play for Europe at the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits and although Europe were soundly beaten, Hovland gave a decent account of himself.
In November, Hovland successfully defended his title at Mayakoba, now called the World Wide Technology Championship, setting a tournament record of 23 under par.
Less than a month later, he won the Hero World Challenge, beating Scottie Scheffler by a shot. He recorded back-to-back eagles in the final round.
Hovland started 2022 with a top-five finish at the Abu Dhabi Championship and the following week he won the Dubai Desert Classic, making a birdie at the first playoff hole to beat Richard Bland, a man at the opposite end of his career. It was a victory that took him to third in the world rankings.
In December 2022, Hovland successfully defended his title at the Hero World Challenge.
But 2023 has seen Hovland hit new heights. He was in contention at both The Masters and the US PGA. He shot a closing round 74 at Augusta to finish tied for seventh. He closed the PGA Championship at Oak Hill with a 68, ending two shots behind winner Brooks Kopeka. But he had served notice that he was now a major contender.
In June, Hovland won the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour. He defeated Denny McCarthy in a playoff after making a birdie at the 17th to take the tournament to extra holes. He was the only play to birdie the 17th all day.
In August, he shot a final round course-record 61 to win the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields - a round that featured 12 threes. And he wasn’t finished. The following week, he won the Tour Championship and ended the regular season as FedEx Cup champion.
In September he was one of the stars for Luke Donald’s European Ryder Cup team as they gained revenge for the hammering they took at Whistling Straits by beating the USA 16.5-11.5 at Marco Simone Golf Club on the outskirts of Rome.
He has now won six times on the PGA Tour in just 98 starts. He has also finished second four times, third four times and has enjoyed 20 top-five finishes and 25 top-10 finishes and has missed just 10 cuts and pocketed more than $26.5m in prize money. He is ranked fourth in the world and ended the 2022-23 season in first place in the FedEx Cup standings.
He has only played a handful of tournaments on the DP World Tour but has two victories, two runner-up finishes and a third place.
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