NASSAU, Bahamas – Viktor Hovland is attempting to do something at this week’s Hero World Challenge that he said he’s never done before at any level in golf – win the same tournament three consecutive times.
Not even Tiger Woods has achieved that feat at the Hero, where he is the tournament host. Woods is a five-time champ and won the event in 2006 and 2007 but in 2008 he was unable to go for the three-peat. Hovland is well aware of all this and said he’s up to the challenge.
“It wouldn’t suck or else I wouldn’t be here,” said Hovland, who took a few minutes between his practice session on Wednesday to talk to Golfweek.
A year ago, Hovland arrived at Albany Golf Club as the defending champion but he wasn’t happy with the state of his game. Winning surprised Hovland but it was a good lesson that he didn’t need to play perfect golf to hold the trophy on Sunday.
“I played great obviously, but I didn’t feel great going into it and I still managed to win,” he said.
But he also refused to be complacent and earlier this year, he changed swing instructors to Joe Mayo, who helped him revamp his short game, which had been holding him back at tougher courses. Hovland won three times in all on the PGA Tour and climbed to third in the Official World Ranking. But to a lot of people, himself included as he stated on Smylie Kaufman’s podcast, he’s been playing the best golf of anyone.
The Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings has him second behind only Scottie Scheffler while Data Golf ranks him first and as the 16th best-player all-time in terms of his peak performance (between the British Open and the DP World Tour Championship).
Hovland no doubt is the hottest player in the world, having won his two most recent starts on the PGA Tour at the BMW Championship and Tour Championship and then played a starring role in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory.
His performance has earned the respect of his peers.
“What he’s done kind of this entire year, especially starting at Memorial, it doesn’t surprise me at all because I’ve seen it,” said Collin Morikawa. “I’ve seen it for years. I’ve seen it in college, I’ve seen it even when we first turned pro.”
Veteran pro Jason Day is convinced he could pull off three in a row this week against a 20-man field, which includes the return of Tiger Woods.
“He’s got confidence,” Day said. “Viktor’s played such a good stretch of golf. I don’t know how he spent his break. It really depends whether he’s been hanging with friends or grinding on his game but he’s certainly capable of more great golf.”
Hovland said he took 3 ½ weeks off after the Ryder Cup and visited Norway, and then went and finished T-2 at the DP World Tour Championship. Asked to explain why he’s had so much success at Albany Golf Club, a course designed by Ernie Els, Hovland said, “You’ve got to hit it straight and it blows a lot and I like playing in the wind.”
Hovland is sharing a house this week again with Morikawa, a two-time major winner, but he won’t have the same room this year as the FedEx Cup champ got upgraded to the master bedroom.
“I had the master bedroom the past two years and that hasn’t worked out for me, but it has for him,” Morikawa said. “So I decided, and I texted him yesterday to make sure he was taking the master bedroom. We showed up at like 3 a.m. (Tuesday), so it was nice to find my little guest room in the corner. He’s got everything he needs.”
And should Hovland repeat it definitely won’t suck, as he put it, but it will mean he’ll need a new roommate when he returns next year.
“If he wins, I am going to find someone else to stay with,” Morikawa said. “Something has to change, something has to give.”