Viktor Hovland may not have played links golf in over two years but he looked like he had never been away as he carded an opening 68 on debut at The 2021 Open Championship.
Viktor Hovland, statements
“This is my first time playing links golf as a professional. It’s been a while since I’ve played it but it takes some time to get used to. That’s why I came here on Saturday, just to get adjusted to the weather and how the ball was bouncing and just getting to know the course. I really enjoyed it. As a whole, I think two under par today is pretty solid. With the wind and some of these pin placements, it was not easy, and I felt like when I was out of position, I was able to come out OK. I hit some really nice iron shots and wedges that set up some pretty easy birdies. Tomorrow I feel like I need to hit it maybe a little bit better off the tee. Had some sporadic drives in there. Other than that, I feel pretty confident. Overall, I thought I found a rhythm. I was able to make some putts. That was huge – speed. It was important for me today. I was putting the ball really well and I’ve just got to keep that up the next three days. Huge momentum heading into the next few days. It’s a learning process and the greens, they’re slow, that’s it. They’re slow and you’ve got to figure out how to putt. I feel like my putting stroke has been good. Just had to figure out speed. Really happy playing out here. It’s fun. It’s a learning experience but I hope to figure it out shortly.”
Everyone in Norway is going crazy for Viktor Hovland. The victory at the BMW International Open transformed an afternoon of his undercover in a Norwegian club into a national and non-national media event. And so, what should have been 18 holes in relaxation with three friends have become 18 holes in relaxation with three friends and three hundred fans on the green.
Power of golf and power of the Internet. The 23-year-old is one of the young rampants of the international circuit, in constant growth and with one foot already in history. The number 14 in the world ranking has two titles on the bulletin board on the PGA Tour (the first Norwegian to impose itself in the USA, in the Puerto Rico Open 2020 and in the Mayakoba Classic 2020). As if that weren’t enough, at the end of June he was the first Norwegian to win a race on the European Tour. The success at the BMW International Open came at the end of June on the Munich Eichenried course: Hovland won with two strokes off Martin Kaymer and four Jorge Campillo.
Returning to his homeland after the success, Viktor had opted for a sabbatical week. No contact with the professional golf world: no interviews, no appearances and no interventions via Zoom. In the Oslo player’s plans, the will to regenerate on a mental level ahead of next week’s Open Championship.
His program includes a lot of golf but in great secrecy, including eighteen holes with three friends at Larvik Golfklubb, a club two hours’ drive from Oslo. The chosen playmates were Andreas Halvorsen (professional on the Latin American tour), Kevin André Wright (pro and former Norwegian champion) and former footballer John Arne Riise.
So far so good. None of the four, however, had calculated Golfbox, the Norwegian gesgolf, the site where tee times are booked. A member of the Larvik Golfklubb, looking for a time to his liking, came across the name “Viktor Hovland h.16.00” and couldn’t believe his eyes. He immediately photographed the page to turn it on a Facebook group. Once socialized, you know, the photo has no limits.
So at 4pm one day last week, three hundred Hovland fans showed up in Larvik to meet him. However, the “leak” did not scare the 23-year-old who, between a selfie and an autograph, played accompanied by his audience.