Viktor Hovland made $18 million (!), but his real payoff came after
Viktor Hovland’s Tour Championship paycheck is, charitably speaking, life-changing.
The number from just one week — $18 million — is more than most people see in a lifetime. It is enough money to know that Hovland will be financially secure every day for the rest of his life. It is enough to grant him the kind of “generational wealth” that has sent scores of PGA Tour journeymen fleeing to LIV Golf. It is enough to know his kids’ kids will not have to worry about paying for their college tuition.
It is not, however, enough money to change Viktor Hovland’s life.
That much was all but apparent when Hovland spoke from his post-tournament presser at East Lake on Sunday evening. Hovland had just claimed the biggest victory of his professional life to date — the latest in a spate of victories dating back to early 2023 that have seen the 25-year-old vault from a gifted PGA Tour youngster into one of the best players in the world. He had done so in triumphant fashion, winning by five strokes despite entering the week trailing by two to then-FedEx Cup leader Scottie Scheffler. And yet he looked roughly the same as he does every time steps in front of the podium: his eyes playful, his smile wide, his voice steady. Many players wear the weight of the week in these settings; Viktor very evidently does not.
As he stood at the podium, the topic of Hovland’s latest payday was an inevitability. The money is most of the charm when it comes to the PGA Tour postseason, and for a player without, say, Rory McIlroy’s bank account, it was an even bigger factor.
Finally the question arrived, and Hovland was ready for it. Was the $18 million a big deal? Sure. Was it going to change anything? He didn’t think so.
“Obviously it’s a lot of cash you’re playing for. I mean, it’s in the back of your mind,” he said, pausing for a beat. “But I live in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Money goes a long ways there.”
A very long ways. A recent report from Salary.com estimated the cost of living in Stillwater was 4.7 percent below the national average, with the cost of things like housing and food falling close to 15 percent below the national average. When Hovland said it wasn’t like he was “spending money out the wazoo every week,” it seems he wasn’t kidding.
But light-hearted as that comment came across, it revealed something about the PGA Tour’s newest season-long champ that can’t be said about many of his pro golfer counterparts. Hovland himself summed it up perfectly.
“I don’t need a lot to be happy,” he said. “I don’t need a lot to live within my means.”
Of course, we know that Hovland means that. We know it by the way he competes — his obsession with competition could only be the byproduct of a man with a deeply single-minded focus. We know it by the way he has improved every season since arriving on the scene in professional golf, grinding on his short game until it went from one of pro golf’s worst to a legitimate asset used to help win tournaments. And we know it, in a more literal sense, by the way he spent nearly a full season on Tour driving from event to event in a Lexus RC F.
The thing that matters to Viktor Hovland is golf. And it’s nice that golf happens to make money, too.
“Obviously it’s nice for my family to have that protection and my, you know, eventual kids, that I’ll have in the future,” he said. “It’s nice to have that, but it’s not something that drives me, it’s not something that gives me meaning. I find meaning in other places.”
On Sunday at the Tour Championship, there was plenty of meaning to be found in a paycheck. Just not to the person who received it.
His meaning would arrive on Monday, when it was time again to get back to work.