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U.S. Open 2019: Viktor Hovland, the smiling assassin, is Dustin Johnson 2.0

June 17, 2019

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif — Viktor Hovland didn’t just win low amateur at the 2019 U.S. Open. He gave golf fans a glimpse of a young career that’s destined for greatness.

Hovland was an amateur at Pebble Beach— his final tournament with that status before turning professional next week — but he played like nothing of the sort.

The Oklahoma State product and defending U.S. Amateur champ finished T12, and in the top 10 in SG: Driving (7th) and in SG: Approach (5th) for Sunday’s round. Incredibly, he also led the championship field in SG: Driving by almost two strokes over the course of four rounds. He played with Brooks Koepka his first two days, shooting 69 with six birdies on Thursday. He bettered that score by two on Sunday, making another six birdies en route to a 67. It was enough for low amateur in his second-straight major start.

“It’s obviously cool to perform like that,” Hovland said. “I hope that this will feed or I can feed off of this going into my professional career.”

The PGA Tour is the next stop for Hovland. With a big equipment deal rumored in the works and a schedule that’s becoming clearer every day, Hovland is setting his goals high.

“I want to do more things like this,” he says. “Be in contention and winning tournaments.”

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Hovland, like his teammate Matt Wolff, is part of the generation redefining golf. His swing is ultra-new school, born in an age of power and athleticism, modeled not after the smooth-swinging greats like Sam Snead and Ernie Els, but Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson.

Hovland’s lead wrist is in a flexed — traditionally-defined “bowed” — position at the top, with a closed clubface.

His arms are extended up and away from his body, with the clubface what most would consider a closed position. The resemblance to Dustin Johnson at the top of his backswing is uncanny, as you can see below.

It’s not an accident.

Just like Johnson, Hovland squares the face by rotating and opening his hips — hard — through the ball. It’s a speed move counteracting a power move, and because it’s his body rotating rather than the club shaft, the clubface stays stable the entire time.

The result is a power fade that seemingly goes straighter the harder he hits it. But just because Hovland’s swing is powerful, doesn’t mean it’s something he obsesses over. In fact, he doesn’t think about it much at all

“I like hitting those high, spinny fades,” Hovland says. “I just want to control it, keep it in the fairway, I really think that’s the most important thing.”

Hovland proves at Pebble Beach that he’s got all the tools, and the perspective to catapult him to the top of the game. Viktor Hovland. Get used to the name, you’ll be hearing it for years to come.

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