PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – For the last two days at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba, you can’t miss a Norwegian.
And that’s not, specifically, Viktor Hovland – although we’ll get to him soon – instead a throng of about 15 Norwegian fans who planned a trip around the event at Mayakoba in order to cheer on their countryman.
Hovland gave the crew plenty to root for over the weekend at El Camaleón Mayakoba Golf Course and on Sunday he won for the third time on TOUR. He set the 72-hole scoring record in the process and became the first every back-to-back champ of the event.
The group, all members of the same golf club in Norway, make an annual trip to Mexico. Hovland said he had no idea who they are, but when he played at Mayakoba three years ago he did see them once before.
Oslo, Norway, is about 5,200 miles from Playa Del Carmen, but for the last two days, anyway, Hovland felt the love.
“The Norwegian people are very patriotic and it’s cool to see that I can get so much support even in Mexico, which is pretty far away from Norway. They were great,” said Hovland, the fifth consecutive international winner on the PGA TOUR. “They applauded good shots and obviously cheered a little bit extra when I made a putt. It was really nice. I want to thank them a lot.”
Hovland’s week started with a broken driver, a product of Danny Lee doing some speed training exercise on the range Wednesday. He had to borrow James Hahn’s, which worked out just fine – he was T2 in Driving Accuracy for the week.
Hovland had his best-career effort in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee last season, so he said it’s unlikely he’ll put the new driver specs into his bag full-time, but there’s no denying that something clicked this week.
“I could see myself using maybe this setup at certain courses for sure,” said Hovland.
Then Hovland opened his second round by hitting his approach no more than “four steps right of the pin.” But it landed on a sprinkler head and went into the trees. Lost ball.
“When something like that happens, you just kind of go, ‘Oh, man, come on, like really, is that (going to) happen?” said Hovland. “I was able to get over that pretty quickly.”
Hovland righted the ship on Saturday with a 9-under 62 (perhaps since nothing odd happened that day) and was untouchable Sunday. He became the first golfer to win the same event in back-to-back years since Brooks Koepka at the PGA Championship in 2018-19.
Hovland put on as complete a performance as any through the early part of the 2021-22 PGA TOUR season – despite plenty of obstacles in his way – and is projected to move to fourth in the FedExCup standings.
“I wouldn’t say the third round that I played is my best round ever. I didn’t like, tell myself, ‘Oh, man, I’m playing the best golf of my life,’ but it’s just kind of putting everything together into four rounds and making very few mistakes,” said Hovland. “I would say I’ve definitely had better ball-striking weeks, but to put a good ball-striking week with good short game and good putting is something that I haven’t done very often.”
“I was coming in with some high expectations, but obviously for it to end like this and win by four shots, it’s been a cool week,” said Hovland. “Couldn’t ask for it to go any different.”
Justin Thomas, playing in the group ahead of Hovland and Talor Gooch, finished third at 18 under, while another Ryder Cupper, Scottie Scheffler, finished fourth. Scheffler, who played alongside Bryson DeChambeau and defeated Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood on Saturday at Whistling Straits, said Hovland’s game has been “proven” over the last couple of seasons.
“He’s a great ball-striker and a really good putter as well and obviously a very talented guy,” said Scheffler. “I’m sure this won’t be the last time you’ll see him on top of the leaderboard.”
And with every appearance on top of a PGA TOUR leaderboard, you can bet there will be even more fans from Norway cheering him on.