At the 2021 Ryder Cup in Wisconsin, Viktor Hovland was the new kid on the block. He had an infectious smile, a charming personality, and a tee shot that could go for miles.
But he also had a poor short game, which helps explain why the Norwegian went 0-3-2 at Whistling Straits.
Yet, two years later, Hovland’s game around the greens is vastly improved, hence why he emerged as the FedEx Cup champion.
“I lacked the special things in the matches to where you really flip the momentum around, and you can build on a big putt or an up-and-down or maybe a chip-in or something like that,” Hovland said of his Ryder Cup debut. “That just wasn’t there.”
“I think this time around, with all the work that I’ve done on the short game and some of the accomplishments that I’ve made in the last few tournaments and throughout the year, I feel like I’m much more accomplished.”
Indeed, Hovland should feel more accomplished.
He decimated the PGA Tour’s top players at both Olympia Fields and East Lake to win the BMW and Tour Championships. In June, Hovland emerged victorious at the Memorial Tournament, defeating Denny McCarthy in a playoff for his maiden win.
He also played well in the majors.
“Even if I don’t have my game or I don’t hit it as well as I would have liked, I still feel like I can win or get up and down from a terrible spot,” Hovland added.
“It’s not like, oh, I have to be in the perfect spot to have a chance to win the match. There is a belief and a confidence that I can get myself out of any situation, and I think that’s a huge turnaround from last time.”
That confidence stems from renowned golf coach Joe Mayo, whom Hovland started working with at the beginning of the year.
“It’s no secret that I’ve never been great around the greens, and to play at the highest level, it’s very difficult to beat the best players in the world if you can’t get the ball up and down, especially when the courses get tough,” Hovland said.
Hovland then explained how he was getting too shallow when hitting chip shots and getting way behind the ball. That created inconsistencies and poor execution.
“Around the green, you want to slow the ball down, so you want to essentially do the opposite of what you do to hit a drive,” Hovland said. “When [Mayo] explained certain feelings that I have in my short game and just explained how to do that, it just clicked for me, and I was able to do it right away on the practice green.”
Slowing things down clearly clicked for Hovland, who is arguably the best player on the planet right now.
He should have all the confidence in the world with his renowned short game, which should spell trouble for Team USA in Rome.