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‘A damn bad job’: Viktor Hovland lashes out at PGA Tour but stops short of jumping to LIV Golf

December 18, 2023
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Ross Kinnaird

Viktor Hovland, the reigning FedEx Cup champion, said recently that he remains committed to the PGA Tour, at least for the foreseeable future. But his support extends only to the golf course and not to management, which he calls “arrogant” and has done “a damn bad job” in handling the fracture in the game with the launch of the rival LIV Golf League.

Speaking on Discovery’s FORE podcast in his native Norway, Hovland, 26, expressed “doubt” that he would follow recent convert Jon Rahm to LIV amid reports that Hovland was getting ready to jump. Having committed to six early-season PGA Tour events, including the season-opening Sentry Tournament of Champion in Kapalua, Hawaii, Hovland indicated that his allegiance was strictly personal and related to his development as a player.

“If I had gone to LIV, I don’t think I would have become a better golfer, and then it is, in a way, end of discussion,” said Hovland, the No. 4 golfer in the world, citing LIV’s 54-hole, no-cut format. “You need the competition with 150 players and a cut. If you don’t play well enough, you’re out. There is something about it that makes your game a little sharper.”

That said, Hovland was in no way critical of Rahm for his recent about-face and joining the upstart circuit and added that he “wasn’t really shocked” by the Spaniard’s decision. “It would be a bit silly to criticize players for leaving,” he said. “After all, you only hear one angle in the media, and there are quite a few different parts happening at the same time. I totally understand why he [Rahm] left. That’s a lot of money.”

Hovland saved his sharpest remarks for the tour’s leadership.

“Just to be clear, I’m not complaining about the position I’m in, and I’m very grateful for everything,” Hovland said. “But the management has not done a good job. They almost see the players as labor and not as part of the members. After all, we are the PGA Tour. Without the players, there is nothing.

“When you get to see what happens behind closed doors, how the management actually makes decisions, which are not in the players’ best interest, but best for themselves and what they think is best. They are not professional golfers after all. There is a great deal of arrogance behind it all.”

Hovland’s candid comments come on the heels of an unusual bout of reticence earlier this month at the Hero World Challenge; the two-time defending champion, who is known for his accommodating personality, declined requests from the tour to appear for a formal pre-tournament press conference in the Bahamas.

Hovland won three times on the PGA Tour in 2023, including the final two playoff events, the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship to claim the $18 million bonus that goes to the FedEx Cup winner. The Norwegian also was one of the stars for Europe in its decisive Ryder Cup victory over the U.S. in Italy, but during the podcast he said that he will compete in fewer DP World Tour events in 2024. Hovland has six PGA Tour titles and two on the DP World Tour.

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Viktor Hovland poses with the FedEx Cup Trophy after winning the Tour Championship in August.

Kevin C. Cox

A native of Oslo who was an All-American at Oklahoma State and won 2018 U.S. Amateur before turning professional in 2019, Hovland expressed hope that the professional golf’s primary factions come to a truce. The PGA Tour currently faces a deadline of Dec. 31 to negotiate a final deal with PIF, the financial muscle behind LIV, after announcing a framework agreement with the Saudi investment firm in June. The tour also said it is moving forward with talks with the business consortium Strategic Sports Group on a potential investment arrangement.

“There is, of course, a division. The PGA Tour is not as strong as before—that’s a fact,” Hovland said. “The more people leave for LIV the stronger they become and the weaker the PGA Tour becomes. I think that’s crazy. I just hope that it will return to normality in the future.”