Viktor Hovland made a mysterious coaching change. Now he’s going back

Viktor Hovland is in the mix at the 2024 PGA Championship.

Viktor Hovland is in the mix at the 2024 PGA Championship.

Getty Images

For months, Viktor Hovland has been a mystery.

Maybe it’s been longer than that; Hovland has always been a bit of a mystery. But Hovland turned heads last fall when, after the winningest summer of his life, he quietly split with swing coach Joe Mayo.

On Tour, player-coach splits happen all the time. They’re part of the fabric of the sport, like bogeys or khakis. But what made this one particularly surprising was that, with Mayo’s help, Hovland had reshaped his game. He’d turned a giant, glaring weakness — one of the worst short games on the PGA Tour — into a strength. And then he’d become the hottest player in the world. He’d contended at the Players, the Masters and the PGA. He’d won the Memorial, the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship. He’d pulled in well over $30 million in on-course earnings. But it wasn’t enough.

Hovland has always been a tough-to-impress employer. During a range session interview we did last summer he expressed surprise at the lack of curiosity displayed by some of his peers — including the way they evaluated their coaches.

“I’m in charge of my own business. I’m the CEO of Viktor Hovland Golfing Enterprise. And that includes hiring people who help me with my golf swing,” he said.

After the split, Hovland wasn’t overly eager to get into the why except when to say that he felt like he’d gotten as much as he could out of that version of his golf swing.

“I just felt like I got to basically the pinnacle of what my golf swing was able to do last year,” Hovland said ahead of the 2024 Masters. “When I keep looking back at my swings from 2020, 2021 I just really had more control of the golf ball, in my opinion.”

But this post-Mayo, 2024 version of Hovland has struggled. In seven starts this year his best finish is T19 — and he suffered a heartbreaking missed cut at the Masters. His short-game numbers have reverted to their old ugly selves. He skipped the RBC Heritage. And then, last week, he decided to give Mayo a call.

“Just reached out and was wondering if he could take a look at my golf swing, and let’s get back to work,” Hovland said on Thursday. It sounded simple, put like that.

“Yeah, he knows my swing really well,” he continued. “He’s really, really smart, and just has a way of looking at my swing and kind of knowing what it is right away. Felt like I got some really good answers, was able to apply some of the feels right away, and I saw improvement right away.”

That hardly means Hovland feels like he has it all figured out; he was the last man on the driving range on Wednesday night at Valhalla. But he felt good about what he was chasing.

“I’ve just been struggling with my driver a little bit,” he said of the extra range time. “I thought I’d hit my irons really, really nice yesterday, and I just said to myself, ‘if I can drive it a little bit better, then I’ve got a pretty nice chance.'”

Hovland was battling a high push fade, he said. He hit a couple of those on Thursday but generally drove it better.

“That’s why I stand on the range and practice,” he concluded.

On Thursday, Hovland got off to a dream start. Birdie at the par-5 10th, his first hole of the day. Birdie at 12. Birdie at 13, too. And after trading birdies and bogeys the rest of the way he signed for a solid 68, at the edge of the top 10.

Exit mobile version