‘This is not great is what I was thinking:’ Viktor Hovland blows up on final hole
Viktor Hovland, minutes after his second round at the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship, was pulled off into an interview by Golf Channel. Steve Sands, the interviewer, said he wanted to talk about “what just took place,” and Hovland slightly shrugged after a small laugh, looked down and to the right, then rubbed his belly with his right hand. What took place wasn’t great, and neither was this, but here he was.
“For those of us who will never understand what it’s like to be inside the ropes competing against the world’s best like you are just this week, when something like that is happening, we always wonder, what goes through your mind at that point?” Sands would ask.
“Uh, this is not great is what I was thinking,” Hovland said.
He likely wasn’t alone.
Hovland stepped to the tee box on the 446-yard, par-4 9th hole, his final hole on Friday, at the Concession Golf Club two shots back of the lead. He had birdied five of his first six holes. He birdied 7 and 8. He walked off the 9th green six behind. Hovland had taken eight shots, a quadruple bogey, his highest score in his two years as a pro. He was left answering the what-goes-through-your-mind questions.
“My mindset was, I was in a terrible spot, but how can we minimize the damage because I had played some good golf and I know if I can kind of get out of there not too poorly I can make some birdies the next couple days,” Hovland said on Golf Channel. “That one definitely hurt.”
It went from bad (1) to ugly (2) to ugly (3) to ugly (4) to ugly (5) to ugly (6) to a pitch (7) and a putt (8).
The bad. Stroke one. Hovland piped it down down the left side of the fairway. He even confidently bent over to pick up his tee before his ball landed. But it trickled into a bunker. The ugly. Stroke two. From there, from 144 yards out, Hovland caught too much of the ball and hit it over the green and into some shaggy shrubs.
“It could be lost over there to the right if somebody didn’t see it,” analyst Paul Azinger said on the Golf Channel broadcast.
The ugly. Stroke three. Hovland found it. It was 64 feet from the hole. He then spent the next four-plus minutes trying to find a shot. He lifted a few branches and tossed them to the side. He found another ball and a water bottle near his ball. He and caddie Shay Knight discussed whether to take an unplayable lie.
“I just don’t see how you can get a club on it,” Knight said.
Hovland did. A lot of it. His ball bounced once on the back of the green before settling less than a foot from the back lip of the left greenside bunker, about 70 feet away.
“That’s just really a sad result from what was a pretty decent effort to get it out of there,” Azinger said on the broadcast. “Either you whiff or it comes out way faster than you think and that’s what happened here.
“And that’s a no-chancer right there.”
The ugly. Stroke four. Hovland’s left foot was out of the bunker and his right was in. It was his only stance. The shot rocketed out and rolled to the left of where he had been on stroke three.
“He had a seven-under round going,” announcer Dan Hicks said on the broadcast. “Not a single dropped shot till this disaster at the 9th.”
“Your brain is moving so fast right now,” analyst John Wood, a former caddie, said on the broadcast. “You’ve had such an easy day and now your head is swimming and you got to take a moment and say, ‘What am I doing here?’”
The ugly. Stroke five. Hovland took an unplayable lie. The right-handed player had briefly considered hitting his ball left-handed.
The ugly. Stroke six. From 68 feet away, Hovland hit his ball toward the green, only for it to slide back down the upward slope ahead of it. “I don’t know if I can recall another round by a player who had it going like this, a seven-under round going, and had this happen to him and in this way,” Hicks said.
The pitch. Stroke seven. From 53 feet away, Hovland nearly pitches it in, his ball sliding past the right side of the hole. The putt. Stroke eight. From 9 feet out, he rolled it in.
Hovland took off his black hat and scratched his head. He fist-bumped Knight, his caddie. He placed his hat back on to where it sat just on his hair. The final eight strokes of his round of 69 were done.
Hovland then went to his interview.