Viktor Hovland withdrew from last week’s WM Phoenix Open. By all accounts, it wasn’t injury-related. Sometimes, Vik just prefers to take a break after a tough showing.
After a brilliant 2023 featuring a pair of wins and solid showings at the majors, Hovland hasn’t quite lived up to the billing through two starts.
The Norwegian finished T-22nd at The Sentry in his 2024 debut.
Hovland struggled in the wet, windy conditions at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he settled for T-58th at the weather-shortened event.
It’s still a sample size and Hovland deserves the benefit of the doubt to be able to get back on the horse quickly. His consistency over four-plus years as a pro backs it up.
Now that Hovland’s recuperated at home, he can dial it back in at a place that’s treated him well.
The 26-year-old’s making his fourth start at Riviera. He finished T-5th (71-69-70-67) in 2021, T-4th (71-64-65-70) in 2022, and T-20th (69-71-70-69) last year.
Hovland also played here and at Bel-Air Country Club at the 2017 U.S. Amateur.
“I played well here last year and I guess, like, it fits my game tee to green,” Hovland was transcribed by ASAP Sports in 2022. “The thing is that the greens are so small that you're going to end up in some tricky spots, but I feel like my short game's gotten better and I've been able to maneuver some of the hard shots that you get around here.”
A big reason for Hovland’s career year was an improved short game he talked about. He went from 191st (-.651) in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green in 2021-22 to 86th (.060) in 2022-23.
He’d still like to build on that, but just being near a net zero in that category is enough to contend week in and week out with his ball striking.
Hovland was fifth last season in SG: Tee-to-green (1.412) and eighth in SG: Off-the-Tee (.741).