Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands

Stunning Admission

PGA Championship 2024: Viktor Hovland admits he considered withdrawing from Valhalla field, now has a chance to win


Patrick Smith

It’s shocking to hear that one of the contenders during the final round of the 2024 PGA Championship considered withdrawing from this major, but if you’re aware of Viktor Hovland’s struggles this year, it might not be a complete surprise.

The talented Norwegian withdrew from last month’s RBC Heritage after a missed cut at the Masters left him searching for answers—recording only one top-20 finish in 2024, which came at the limited-field Sentry Tournament of Champions in January, after playing as well as anyone to close 2023. After departing from his long-time confidante and instructor Joe Mayo, Hovland admittedly went down “rabbit holes” as he looked to recapture his game while also hiring top teachers Grant Waite and Dana Dahlquist.

Hovland reunited with Mayo earlier this week and credits a revelation over dinner with the Tennessee-based coach ahead of Valhalla for giving him the keys to unlock his game. And after three rounds, the 26-year-old finds himself two shots back after admitting he debated not playing in the tournament altogether.

“I was almost considering pulling out of this event because I wasn’t playing good at all,” Hovland admitted to SiriusXM’s Jason Sobel in a post-round interview after posting a five-under 66 on Saturday. “Overall, I thought things didn’t feel very good, and when they don’t feel good, it’s like, ‘What’s the point of playing?’ ”

That’s a wild statement to hear considering the Norwegian dueled Brooks Koepka down the stretch at last year’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill, undone when his ball embedded in a fairway bunker at the 16th hole, which led to a costly double bogey. But consider the depths of his struggles this year—he ranked second-to-last among qualifying PGA Tour players, 186th, in the SG/around the green category, losing 0.74 strokes per round heading into this week. And despite being one of the best ball-strikers in the world in previous years, he was losing strokes ball-striking as well.

Hovland said Mayo pinpointed a feel he wanted his pupil to recreate, and that shift has proved to be a difference-maker thus far at Valhalla. Reporters noted that Hovland—routinely one of the last players on the range during a tournament—called Mayo during a late practice session to review his swing as he worked at it. Even Hovland is surprised at how quickly things have come together for him.

“It just got better immediately,” Hovland said. “I thought this was potentially going to be a little bit of a project and maybe take six, eight weeks before I would see kind of immediate improvement.”

Even Hovland admits he’s surprised everything has clicked so far at Valhalla. He did appear to have fixed the ball-striking in his final round at Quail Hollow during last week’s signature event, gaining nearly five strokes/ball-striking on the field. Thus far through three rounds, Hovland is gaining strokes in four major strokes-gained categories, ranking fifth in SG/tee to green through three rounds.

The ultimate test to these gains will be Sunday, and whether those improvements will translate directly to results as he looks to avenge last year’s close call at Oak Hill—and all the struggles from this year.