Viktor Hovland shakes off a broken rider, defends the Mayakoba title and delivers his most impressive win yet | Golf news and tour information

by | Nov 8, 2021 | Golf Balls

Statement wins do not usually take place in November. Autumn golf is fertile ground for the first winner, the 40+ year old who turns back the clock, the total outsider who picks you out of nowhere. But every golf tournament offers an open canvas, a new opportunity to grow as a player and send a message to your peers. So Viktor Hovland made the late trip to Mexico. He definitely got his money’s worth.

The 24-year-old Norweigan successfully defended his title in Mayakoba with a tournament record of 23 under and took the World Wide Technology Championship for his third career win on the PGA Tour – and a massive confidence boost. He started Sunday two shots ahead and promptly stifled the ambitions of his pursuers by playing his first 11 holes in four sub. It wasn’t quite as aesthetic to walk in – his old archenemy raised his bad head as he knocked a chip on 13 – but with this kind of daylight between you and # 2, it doesn’t take style points 67 more than adequate.

This wasn’t Hovland’s first W, sure, but this was the first time he slammed the door when it had to slam his door. Developing is an important skill for a talented player and so this was not an insignificant day in his career.

“It feels great,” said Hovland. “Obviously I felt my game was in good shape this week and I know this course is really a good fit for my game. But there were some things that didn’t quite go my way at the beginning of the week. It was nice to overcome these problems … “

Problems indeed. It’s hard to toss the word adversity around in the context of an autumn event set in a Mexican paradise, but hear us out. On Wednesday, Hovland and Danny Lee did what pros do during the pre-tournament training days – they whined about golf balls, fixated on readings from a launch monitor. The cool kids call it speed training. Hovland was curious to see if Lee would pick up speed with his driver, an inch longer than Lee’s, so he handed his player over and told him to shoot. Lee put every ounce of his not-so-small body into it, backed away, and broke the club. Hovland did not have a backup manhole on site, but James Hahn came to the rescue with an adequate replacement that had to be sufficient. There was no alternative.

So Hovland went to a nearby golf course – the Pro-Am was in El Camaleon and the Range only let him shoot one-way wind – for a last minute crap and decided he could get this thing going. He was pleasantly surprised by how much control he had on a Thursday 67, then brushed it off again and again during a second lap 65 that should have been lower. Yes, it should be a dangerous game in golf, but that was a particularly brutal exhalation by the golf gods. On his 10th hole on Friday, he sent a slightly crowded approach just a few steps to the right of the flag. It dismantled a sprinkler head and shot more than 20 meters into the impassable mangrove forest that lines practically every hole in El Cameleon. A lost ball. A double bogey. He made his next hole right away, and four more before he was finished.

On Saturday the funny things finally passed. Hovland was left to its own devices – and one by James Hahn – and it became abundantly clear that these devices were far better than anyone else’s. He made shooting as easy as possible at 62; his play partner Anirban Lahiri, not a man prone to exaggeration, thought it could easily have been a 59. And that set things up well for Sunday.

“I slept well but I woke up very early this morning and was pretty nervous and excited to get started,” said Hovland. “To be able to sleep in the front and go out on the conditions early this morning because it was blowing pretty hard on the first nine. In all honesty, I didn’t play the Front Nine well at all, but I was able to hold out there and do a lot of good putts. I was really happy that I could do the lap that I drove today without my best stuff, so to speak. “

On his heels, just three behind him, was Justin Thomas, last to find himself after playing his first nine holes of the week in three sets and then going from worst to first in just 41 holes. Nobody gets as hot as JT, and when he got his hands on part of the tour on Saturday afternoon you thought he was the man to beat. But his pace slowed significantly, and on Sunday he finished two in 69 behind a very, very popular silver medalist: Mexican Carlos Ortiz.

“I didn’t get off to a good start to really put pressure on Viktor,” said Thomas. “Today it was a little windier, a little tougher, but I still haven’t swung very well and I felt like I’ve really gotten better off the last few days of how I felt about the ball, better than I would have thought . I think it somehow caught up with me today. “

Another tune, as you might imagine, from Ortiz, who was delighted to put on a hell of a good show with a graduation of 66 including birdies up for the few fans in attendance (only resort guests, player guests, and corporate guests were on location this week) five of his last seven holes.

“I’m really proud,” said Ortiz. “It was a hard day. I couldn’t really find anything in the first nine and just kept pushing. The people out here, all of my friends, I just found a way to get something going. And it’s funny how golf works, but when you take the first shot that you see and how you want it, it just clicks and I just find the confidence I needed to finish strong. “

You would do well to find two culturally and topographically different places like Norway and Mexico, but Hovland has found a second home in the Gulf. He won two of his three tournaments in Mexico, both in the fall. The other came in an opposing field event in Puerto Rico. He hasn’t poached any of the glossier trophies on the PGA Tour, and majors are a whole different conversation, but he made his first appearance in the Ryder Cup in September. Also, a man can only win the tournament he is participating in. And when you see Hovland win that tournament, you know those conquests are only a matter of time.