When it comes to reaping the fruits of labor, Viktor Hovland is a living example, thanks to the intensive focus he’s placed on refining his short game this season.
Choosing a secluded enclave at the far end of TPC Sawgrass’s exemplary practice facilities during the Players Championship last March, Hovland seemed determined to avoid the prying eyes of fans. Guided by his eccentric and relatively new mentor, Joseph Mayo, the Norwegian golf sensation was already off to a promising start for the year—a start that would soon transition to a string of awe-inspiring performances.
Just the week prior, he had secured his first top-10 finish of 2023 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Undeterred, Hovland was practicing like a man possessed, launching shots from sand traps onto the green as if his life depended on it.
Onlookers might think the coaching was straightforward, as discussions seemed to revolve around just the basics—stances, where to place the ball, and contact zones. But here’s the kicker: Mayo, Hovland’s coach, is a former professional poker player who transitioned into golf coaching via a stint selling golf tech gadgets.
Following that week’s rigorous practice, Hovland took home a joint third-place finish at Sawgrass. Fast forward to May, he was a runner-up to Brooks Koepka at the US PGA Championship before nabbing his first major PGA Tour win on American soil at the Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament.
This was more than just a typical win; it was a turning point. Prior victories had come from tournaments in Puerto Rico and Mexico. The Memorial win showcased his skill in the notoriously difficult Muirfield Village, where he finished seven under par.
Only four months later, Hovland snagged the season-long FedEx Cup, tying in total score with East Lake maestro Xander Schauffele at the Tour Championship. This feat was hot on the heels of his win at the BMW Championship—altogether netting him a staggering $34.5 million in prize money for the year.
Currently ranking as the world’s fourth-best player, Hovland is on fire, heading into next month’s Ryder Cup as one of the sport’s most sought-after athletes. His recent rounds feature scores that seem straight out of a golfing fantasy: a string of 60s with a combined 46 under par for the closing trio of PGA Tour playoff events.
His secret? Those golden wedges. Hovland’s extraordinary transformation in his short game can’t be overstated. Before, he admitted, his chipping game could best be described as “amateur hour.”
“Previously, I’d be standing over a shot thinking, ‘don’t mess this up, don’t mess that up,'” Hovland recently shared. His simple mantra these days is to “land it on and keep it on,” a mindset he co-created with a friend.
Coaching synergy also came into play. In addition to Mayo, Hovland also collaborates with European Ryder Cup vice-captain Edoardo Molinari, a master of statistics. They’ve managed to identify and rectify the tactical blind spots in Hovland’s approach, especially when using the eight-iron to wedge.
Once languishing at 191st in strokes gained around the greens, Hovland is now a beacon of mature and secure gameplay. “Viktor is a player who knows his limits and plays strategically,” said golf legend Nick Nicklaus, following the Memorial Tournament.
The young golfer is quick to attribute much of his explosive growth to Mayo. “He’s been incredible,” said Hovland, adding that Mayo’s unconventional background and unique perspective have been instrumental. According to Hovland, Mayo introduced “math and physics” into his golfing equation, and evidently, it’s paying dividends.
One metric illustrates it perfectly: his success rate around the greens has soared to 62.1%, a figure slightly higher than the tour average. When it comes to golf, sometimes it’s the small margins that matter the most.
Feeling secure and stress-free, Hovland is set to participate in his second Ryder Cup in the upcoming weeks. As he takes to the greens of Marco Simone near Rome, there’s little doubt he’ll be a linchpin in Europe’s quest to reclaim the coveted trophy from the U.S.
As for what Rory McIlroy, the man he dethroned as FedEx Cup champion, has to say? “The guy is a class act. Hard-working, professional, and wise beyond his years.”
And if you’re a fan of European Ryder Cup golf, that’s music to your ears.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Golf Mastery
Who is Viktor Hovland and what is the significance of his FedEx Cup win?
Viktor Hovland is a Norwegian golf sensation who secured his victory in the FedEx Cup, a prestigious achievement in the PGA Tour. His win is attributed to his rigorous focus on enhancing his short game skills.
How did Viktor Hovland improve his short game?
Hovland worked extensively on his short game, collaborating with coach Joseph Mayo. Mayo’s unconventional background and analytical approach brought math and physics into Hovland’s golfing equation. This meticulous training led to a remarkable increase in his success rate around the greens.
What role did coaching play in Hovland’s success?
Joseph Mayo, Hovland’s coach, played a pivotal role in his journey. A former professional poker player turned golf coach, Mayo brought a fresh perspective to the table. His guidance combined with Mayo’s analytical insights created a winning formula for Hovland.
How did Hovland’s gameplay change after improving his short game?
Hovland’s transformation is evident in his improved performance, as he competes with maturity and security around the greens. His tactical flaws were rectified, leading to strategic gameplay and reduced short-side situations. This change allowed Hovland to confidently manage challenges and maintain a consistent attitude on the course.
What impact did Hovland’s victory in the FedEx Cup have on his career?
Hovland’s victory catapulted him to the world’s fourth-best player and earned him a record-breaking $34.5 million in prize money for the year. His newfound mastery of the short game solidified his position as a key player in the upcoming Ryder Cup, further enhancing his professional reputation.