DETROIT — The future in front of 22-year-old Viktor Hovland looks wide open, like a souped-up Lexus with nothing but empty lanes before it.
Of course, that’s figurative. The reality is that Hovland — one of the favorites at this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club — has been behind the wheel of a Lexus quite frequently in recent weeks and it just might be one of the keys to his consistency since the PGA Tour returned a month ago.
Hovland keeps driving from event to event — no small task considering the Tour’s first four stops have been in Texas, South Carolina, Connecticut and now Michigan.
“I was thinking I just want to drive because I like to drive, I like to be kind of in my own head, listen to music, listen to podcasts,” he said. “I was thinking during this whole pandemic thing as well, having to get on the charters at specific times, even though I have to get in the car and drive 15 hours, it’s still a lot more convenient because I can go whenever I want to go and I can also pack more stuff in the car. It’s just like a little bit more freedom in that way.”
The results have been impressive. After bobbing up and down before the break — winning the Puerto Rico Open, but missing cuts at Mayakoba Golf Classic, the Waste Management Phoenix Open and The Honda Classic — Hovland has been a pillar of consistency since the return.
He finished T-23 at the Charles Schwab, T-21 at the RBC Heritage and then T-11 at the Travelers Championship last week in Connecticut. Since the return to golf, 10 of Hovland’s dozen rounds have been in the 60s and the other two were a 70 and 71.
The travel routine is interesting, considering Hovland’s steady play after three months of quarantine. After the Schwab in Fort Worth, Hovland hopped in his Lexus RCF and drove through the night — 16 hours — en route to Hilton Head Island. The diet wasn’t ideal, for his stomach or his head, but it seems to be working.
“I probably drank like six Red Bulls through the night going to Hilton Head, but I usually just listen to Joe Rogan podcasts, and I listen to podcasts with a guy named Sam Harris called The Making Sense podcasts,” Hovland said. “I just listen to a bunch of metal music, that also keeps me awake.”
The results are undeniable. With the recent showings, Hovland has cracked the Top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, becoming the first-ever Norwegian to do so. He stands No. 45 in OWGR, although the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings were already clued in on Hovland — his most recent ranking up to No. 21. His Strokes Gained: off the tee (0.635) currently rank 11th on Tour and this despite some club tinkering since the win in Puerto Rico.
As for this week, he certainly seems poised to continue his recent trend of top-25 finishes. Hovland shined in Detroit last year, firing a final-round 64 on his way to a tie for 13th place. He’s long enjoyed Donald Ross designs, and he’s eager to get another crack at this historic track.
“Usually, he has a lot of greens that are sloped back to front, which I’m a very big fan of, just very old-school. Personally, I think it’s very hard to make a good golf hole if the greens are firm and it’s just sloped front to back. There has to be something quirky there that makes it work,” Hovland said. “I think Donald Ross courses, just traditional, tree-lined — there are some good strategically placed bunkers here and there, but it’s nothing fancy. It’s just straight-up good, well-made holes. You have to put the ball in play and you have to hit good shots.
“If you don’t, you’re going to get penalized and I think the Detroit Golf
Club is a good example of that.”
So, as the Tour keeps winding across the country, with stops as far away as the PGA Championship in San Francisco, will Hovland continue to roll in his Lexus from course to course?
“I’m taking 3M off … because I’m playing this week, playing next week and then playing Memorial as well, and then my trip goes home, ” Hovland said. “I think that’s where it stops.”