This putting change propelled Viktor Hovland’s Hero World Challenge win
Viktor Hovland was frustrated when he walked off the course Thursday afternoon.
His 69 left him in an early tie for the lead at the Hero World Challenge, but his scorecard didn’t tell the entire story. Two birdies and an eagle were fantastic in the windy conditions, but his putting left something to be desired. He had more chances, he just couldn’t convert.
“It’s hard to make putts when they’re this fast and it’s blowing as well,” Hovland said. “It’s tricky.”
The trickiness of the greens kept up through Round 2. Hovland shot one stroke worse on Friday, but still found himself tied for the lead. Despite his standing on the leaderboard, Hovland admitted that he still wasn’t comfortable out on the course.
“It just doesn’t feel that great,” he said. “I’m missing a lot of putts and somehow we ended up at two under today.”
The cause for his struggles on the greens was two-fold.
For one, the windy conditions made putting on the slick Bermuda greens a tricky proposition. And with the winds whipping, the graininess of the greens affected putts even more when they neared the hole.
“You’re grinding on three-footers,” Hovland said. “It’s windy and it’s grainy, and the greens are fast so it’s not like you can just ram the putts in, you’ve got to actually kind of die the putts in and that’s when the wind can hit it a little bit harder.”
On the weekend, though, the winds died down just enough. And with calmer conditions in the forecast, Hovland took full advantage.
Over the weekend, Hovland posted 64 and and 69 to secure a two-shot victory in his title defense at Albany. He needed just 47 putts over the weekend (compared to 56 over the first two days) in his march to the title.
“Definitely feels a little bit better ending up with a win,” he said. “I think it was a step in the right direction even though I feel like I should have won more tournaments this year.”
So what changed over the weekend to allow Hovland to put his putting woes behind him? It’s simple, really. It all boils down to confidence.
“You start missing a couple short ones, it’s like, ‘Huh, they’re not going in, I need to kind of make this,'” he said. “But then the opposite side when I started making putts, it’s like, ‘Man, I’m putting well today,’ and then you’re kind of feeding off of that and your mind just kind of looks at the hole like ‘OK, I know how to make this.'”
Once Hovland saw a couple putts find the cup, his mindset totally shifted. Like a streaky shooter who just needs to see one make to open up the hoop, Hovland needed just one putt to fall to take the lid off the cup.
“As soon as you see a couple putts go in, it’s just easy to get confidence from that,” he said. “The difference from just like feeling you’re going to make every putt and the first couple days, it was more like, ‘Oh, I could still miss this putt,’ even if it’s two and a half feet just because of the wind. It just makes you feel so uncomfortable. Trying to just switch the mindset a little bit.”
Sometimes, it all boils down to self confidence.