OSU's Hovland ready to battle Augusta
It’s not a stretch to say that Viktor Hovland might be the most accomplished male golfer to ever come out of Norway.
Hovland, a junior at Oklahoma State, won the U.S. Amateur last summer at Pebble Beach in dominating fashion to earn his spot in this week’s field at Augusta National Golf Club.
He’s the first Norwegian to ever tee it up at the Masters.
“If you’re playing golf at a higher level, as a Norwegian you’re going to do stuff that’s never been done before,” Hovland said last month at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “I try not, in a way, to set the bar that low. I’m just trying to do the best I can and see how it goes.”
Soccer is the No. 1 sport in Norway – everybody skis, he quipped – but Hovland figured out at an early age that he might need to focus on another sport.
“In summer, kids only play soccer and then they realize they’re not good enough and try to play golf and do other stuff,” he said. “When I was growing up, all my friends at school wanted to be the world’s best soccer player. I wanted to be that, too, then I realized when I was 11 that wasn’t going to happen.”
LPGA star Suzann Pettersen is the country’s most decorated player, male or female. She has won 15 times on the LPGA Tour, including two majors.
Despite Norway’s obsession with soccer, the Masters still registers in the country.
“I always knew about it growing up,” Hovland said. “It’s arguably the biggest tournament in the world.”
Hovland was so dominant in the U.S. Amateur that he tied the record for the fewest holes (104) played since the tournament went to its current format 40 years ago. He beat UCLA’s Devon Bling 6 and 5 to win the Havemeyer Trophy.
Hovland made the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and visited Augusta National in late March. He will use his college coach, Alan Bratton, as his caddie. He’s also received some advice from three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson on putting.
“He said a lot of my stuff is looking good,” Hovland said. “Just a little thing with the stroke that leads me to push it sometimes.”
Hovland plans to turn professional after the U.S. Open, which will be held at Pebble Beach. He’s looking forward to returning to the site of his U.S. Amateur triumph.
“I think that just makes the most sense,” he said of turning pro. “The goal is to get on the PGA Tour as soon as possible, and I have five more exemptions left. I think that would make the most sense to turn pro after the U.S. Open.”
For now, he’s looking forward to a Thursday tee time with defending champion Patrick Reed if the traditional pairing holds.
Reed, a former Augusta State star, helped his team beat Oklahoma State twice in the NCAA Tournament. Hovland was asked about helping his school avenge those losses.
“Oh yeah,” Hovland said with a laugh. “We’ll just let the clubs speak for themselves.”