Viktor Hovland might not have won as soon as some of the other young guns he came to the tour with last summer, but his victory courtesy of a final-hole birdie at the Puerto Rico Open surprised no one.
Hovland came into the event as one of the favorites in the opposite-field tournament and didn’t make the oddsmakers look foolish.
He did make himself look, well, foolish, for a moment on the 11th hole. Hovland ranked sixth for the week in scrambling this week, but he struggles with the short game at times. And that was on display on the par 3, where he botched back-to-back pitch shots and made a triple-bogey 6, erasing a three-shot lead. Although his round also included chip-ins for birdie and eagle, the 22-year-old from Norway had an honest assessment of his short game.
“I just suck at chipping,” he said.
Perhaps, but the remainder of his game was solid. Hovland ranked 14th in driving distance and 23rd in accuracy with his Ping G410 LST driver, a club he made a tweak to early in the week. Feeling his driver was a touch too spinny and with too much right-bias, Hovland had the driver adjusted from the flat + setting to the flat standard setting and the movable weight moved to the heel to create offset the right bias. Hovland also was eighth in greens in regulation with his Ping i210 irons in his one-shot win over Josh Teater.
Hovland signed with Ping last year prior to the Travelers Championship and told Golf Digest that a deal that did not include the ball helped with his decision. "Not having to change the ball made the change easier for sure," he said. "TaylorMade [Hovland played TaylorMade clubs earlier in the year] would have been all 14 clubs plus the ball. So while with Ping I have to change some equipment, I liked the idea of 11 clubs and being able to stay with the Titleist ball I had been playing. Plus I have the opportunity to have three other clubs and I like that leeway."
A little leeway that now led to a big payday.
What Viktor Hovland had in the bag at the Puerto Rico Open
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Driver: Ping G410 LST (HZRDUS Black 62), 9 degrees
3-wood: TaylorMade M5, 15 degrees
Wedges: Ping Glide 3.0 (50, 56, 60 degrees)
Putter: Ping PLD