News Update


Viktor Hovland’s FedEx Cup victory on the PGA Tour was the product of hard effort on his short game.

Viktor Hovland chose the far end of the range, a rare lonely area in the wonderful practice facilities at TPC Sawgrass, where few spectators could pry.

Last March, it was the week of the Players Championship. Under the cautious supervision of his unconventional and new coach, Joseph Mayo, the Norwegian had already made a steady start to the year, one that would eventually turn extraordinary.

Hovland had been in a tie for 10th place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the week prior, his first top-10 finish of 2023. This was his most important week of the year, and he was working hard, hitting shot after shot from a bunker to the practice green.

The tutoring appeared to be basic. As I passed by, I noticed people discussing the fundamentals – stance, ball location, strike points.

Hovland was a study in focus, soaking up every nugget of knowledge from his tutor, a former professional poker player who got into coaching by selling golf launch monitors.

Hovland tied for third place that week at Sawgrass. Then he finished second to Brooks Koepka at the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill in May before winning the Jack Nicklaus Memorial tournament in Ohio a fortnight later.

This was the first PGA Tour victory on American soil; the previous three were in Puerto Rico and Mexico. He won at Muirfield Village by shooting seven under par, his first victory on a truly punishing layout.

Four months later, he has won the season-long FedEx Cup, shooting the Tour Championship in Atlanta with East Lake specialist Xander Schauffele for the joint-lowest aggregate score. This victory occurred just a week after winning the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields, the site of the 2003 US Open.

The new world number four has a prize money record of $34.5 million (£27.4 million) in 2023 and will play in Europe’s Ryder Cup team next month as perhaps the hottest player on the planet.


His previous 11 rounds were all in the 60s: 64, 65, 69, 69, 68, 65, 61, 68, 64, 66, 63. For the final three PGA Tour play-off events, he is a combined 46 under par.

No one can score like that without fantastic wedges, yet this is a golfer who chipped like a rank amateur for much of his professional career.

“Before, when I was standing over every shot, I was like, ‘don’t duff it, skull it, leave it in the bunker,'” Hovland admitted recently. “My buddy and I made up this saying: Just land it on and keep it on.” When we had a chip, we set the bar pretty low.”

Hovland started working with Mayo earlier this year and also employs European Ryder Cup vice-captain Edoardo Molinari as a performance coach. The Italian is an expert in statistics, and they immediately spotted tactical faults in the Norwegian’s game.

Far too often, the naturally aggressive Hovland would short-side himself with eight-iron to wedge approaches, exacerbating perceived chipping deficiencies by creating tricky scrambles.

He finished 191st in strokes gained around the greens last year. He was only a world-class golfer due of his exceptional ball-striking ability.

The 25-year-old now competes with impressive maturity and security on the greens. “Viktor plays well within himself, and he’s a smart player,” Nicklaus said following the Memorial.

“This is going to be one of many victories for him as time goes on.”

These are prophetic remarks from the 18-time major winner, and Hovland is eager to appreciate Mayo’s role to what is quickly becoming the fulfillment of immense golfing promise.

“He’s been awesome,” Hovland remarked. “We’ve been texting for a long time, but not about the golf swing, just because we’ve always had a great relationship.”

“He’s a fascinating individual. I enjoy picking people’s brains, and his is a fascinating one.

“It’s been great having someone look at my game from a completely different perspective since he’s been on the team.” He could be one of the few golf coaches who never watches the game.”

Mayo, according to Hovland, brought “a fresh set of eyes.”

“He’s just brought a lot of math and physics to my golf game,” said the Norwegian-born great. “We’ve just applied that, put in a lot of hours, and it works.”

The greatest noticeable gain has been around the greens, where Hovland currently has a 62.1% success percentage compared to the tour average of 58.45. Marginally important yet small.

“When I start to see the short game come around, I believe I have all the shots,” he explained. “I just saw the shots I was able to pull off in tournaments and under high pressure.”

“I combined that with the course management stuff and the attitude, dealing with bad bounces, bogeys, and bad shots.”

“Once I realized that, I wasn’t stressed when I went to a golf tournament or a golf course.” “OK, whatever happens happens,” I thought.

Hovland will compete in his second Ryder Cup at Marco Simone near Rome at the end of next month, and he will undoubtedly be one of Europe’s most valuable squad members as they attempt to reclaim the trophy from the US.

“He just keeps his foot on the pedal,” said Rory McIlroy, the guy he succeeded as FedEx Cup champion. “He’s one of the best golf ball drivers in the world.”

“As we all know, he’s become better around the greens this year. That’s the difference between him being a top-10 player in the world and what he’s accomplished this year.

“I won at Memorial, I won last week, and I have a chance at Oak Hill.” So, yeah, he’s a great player.

“He works quite hard. Nothing except admiration for how he conducts himself. Professional at all times. He’s got an old head on his shoulders for someone who’s still so young.”

Fans of the European Ryder Cup should be overjoyed.


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