Viktor Hovland’s lethal play? He made these 3 fixes

Viktor Hovland hugs his caddie and celebrates his Tour Championship victory on Sunday.

Viktor Hovland hugs his caddie and celebrates his Tour Championship victory on Sunday.

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Viktor Hovland put on an absolute clinic over the last couple of weeks. Here are the numbers: 63, 66, 64, 68, 61, 65, 68, 69, 69, 65, 64, 72. Those were his 12 FedEx Cup Playoff scores, and as you probably know two of those three tournaments ended up in victories.

He claimed the $18 million top prize by winning the Tour Championship on Sunday at East Lake, which came a week after he won the BMW Championship with a brilliant final-round 61. Even in the playoff opener, the FedEx St. Jude Championship, he tied for 13th at 10 under, which was five strokes behind winner Lucas Glover. But that first round of the St. Jude was also Hovland’s only 70s round (he shot 72) in his last dozen. Since then he’s been nearly unstoppable.

Hovland was first in Strokes Gained: total in each of the past two weeks, but he’s always been a great ball-striker. The difference the last couple of weeks? It’s been a major improvement in his short game and putting. He was 22nd and 20th, respectively, in SG: around the green the last two weeks, and he was 2nd in putting at the BMW and 1st at East Lake.

But how would Hovland explain what exactly culminated in his game recently? He was asked that on Sunday and named three important things: his short game, his course management, and his attitude.

All three are equally crucial.

“Throughout the year I feel like obviously short game has improved massively, course management has been a big deal — I’m not short-siding myself as much as I used to — and just handling adversity a lot better because I believe in my game and if I hit one bad shot or make one mistake it’s not the end of the world,” Hovland said. “I keep pressing on, I keep making birdies, and suddenly we’re back in it again. Before, it felt like, ‘Man, I have to not give up any shots to shoot a good round of golf.’ Whereas now that’s not true anymore. I can hit one bad and I can get up and down and move on and birdie the next three and then suddenly we’re right there. So I would say those three things have been just a huge improvement this year.”

Hovland admitted on Sunday he didn’t have all the tools when he first came out on Tour but slowly improved over time. He said the belief was the last missing piece.

“Just those three aspects combined, when I started to see that, I wasn’t stressed when I showed up to a golf tournament or a golf course. It was like, ‘OK, whatever happens happens. I might play bad and that’s OK,'” he said. “Even today it wasn’t like, ‘Man, I hope the double cross with the driver doesn’t show up today. I hope I don’t 3-putt today. I hope I don’t chunk the chips today.’ You know, that might happen, but it’s OK. I think just as soon as I made that mindset change everything started to kind of come together.”

Boy, did it ever.

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