Viktor Hovland, from about 25 yards away on the 13th at El Camaleon Golf Club, hit it about 10, and you’d be correct in wondering whether his S-word assessment of this part of his game was still in play. For those who don’t remember, Hovland, after his victory at the 2020 Puerto Rico Open, matter-of-factly described his efforts around the greens as such:
“I just suck at chipping,’ he said.
And Sunday’s chip, during the final round at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba, most certainly fit that bill. To boot, Hovland was protecting a five-shot lead. “That was the old Viktor Hovland right there,” analyst Curt Byrum said on the Golf Channel broadcast.
This was the new one. From there, Hovland hit to about four feet of the hole, rolled in the par putt and won five holes later. The new — and improved — Hovland was the antithesis of the S word all weekend, too. On Saturday, so good was his chip from just right of the green on the 17th at El Camaleon that the PGA Tour tweeted it out.
On Sunday, from just right of the green on the 5th, Hovland hit to within a foot and birdied. “This part of his game is so good now.” analyst John Wood said on the Golf Channel broadcast. On the par-3 10th, after a tee shot short of the green, Hovland hit again to within a foot. “He has consistently done it on the pitch shots this week. What an improvement.” Byrum said on the broadcast.
Indeed. For the week, Hovland was 14 of 17 in scrambling, good for fifth in the Mayakoba field. All of which, of course, raises a question, especially from those who may also describe their short games as glowingly as Hovland once did:
How did you go from sucking to not?
“Yeah, basically been trying to essentially rotate my forearms a little bit in the backswing so I can get that clubface to open up, get it more essentially on plane, so then I can use the bounce coming through on a lot of different shots,” he said. “Because in the past, I’ve essentially — the first move has just been like that [indicating] with my wrists, which is what I do in the full swing, and then you’re just exposing the leading edge and it’s just going to dig every single time.”
But what happened on 13?
“On 13, it was a tricky lie, it was kind of sitting down and I wasn’t exactly sure how it was going to come off,” Hovland said. “I tried to kind of slide the lob wedge underneath the ball and try to get it to pop up. I didn’t think the club was just going to grab it and go straight underneath the ball. Yeah, you guys all saw what happened.
“But hit a nice chip from there and was able to scramble a par. Obviously not what I was looking for when I was in the middle of the fairway hitting a 7-iron into a par-5, but I think it would have changed a little bit of the remaining holes if I would have made another bogey there.”
In all, Hovland defended his tournament title he won a year ago, set the event scoring record and won his third PGA Tour title overall.
“I didn’t, like, tell myself that, oh, man, I’m playing the best golf of my life, but it’s just kind of putting everything together into four rounds and making very few mistakes,” Hovland said. “I think just kind of I would say I’ve definitely had better ball-striking weeks, but to put a good ball-striking week with good short game and good putting is something that I haven’t done very often.”