With the best players in the world taking on the WGC-Mexico Championship outside of Mexico City, somebody who belongs with them was busy winning the Puerto Rico Open.
Viktor Hovland — ranked No. 102 in the world coming into this week — was not ranked high enough to qualify for the first WGC of 2020. So he went to Puerto Rico as the favorite and nabbed his first PGA Tour event with a 20-under score of 268.
Hovland’s winning score edged him one past veteran Josh Teater (who had never won before on the PGA Tour) and also left him five clear of every other player in the field. The final day was a roller coaster though.
After going out in 1-under 35, Hovland birdied the 10th and tripled the 11th on some of the worst chipping you’ll ever see on the PGA Tour. He was asked about it later, and his explanation was straightforward and also pretty hilarious.
Hovland: "I just suck at chipping. I definitely needed work on my short game and I was 100 percent exposed there. I can get away with it sometimes but over 72 holes I really need to tighten that up."
Easier to talk about after a W but love the direct answer.
— Brendan Porath (@BrendanPorath) February 23, 2020
After a triple that could have ended him, he eagled No. 15 (on a made chip!) and came to the final hole needing a birdie for the win on the 630-yard par 5. After his first three left him 30 feet from the cup, Hovland coolly walked up and slammed both the putt and the door on the event.
A walk-off victory, just like his former teammate Matthew Wolff at the 3M Open last year. And with just about as much style.
It never left the pin. 💯
Viktor Hovland chips in for eagle. 🦅
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 23, 2020
Viktor Hovland's win, as heard in Norway. 🎙🇳🇴 pic.twitter.com/mEcDvGXePI
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 24, 2020
“Got off to kind of a slow start … I hit some really good shots down the stretch,” he told Golf Channel. “The putt at the last was just a bonus. It’s excitement for sure. You’re trying to win every week. Just to do it, it’s incredible. It’s a special feeling.”
It was an amazing reprieve for me from consuming the WGC-Mexico Championship, an event Hovland will likely be playing in next year. This win will move him well into the top 100 in the world, get him his PGA Tour card for the next two seasons and get him into the Players Championship (you do not get a Masters bid for winning opposite-field events like this one).
Hovland is the 21st former Oklahoma State Cowboy to win on the PGA Tour.
However, there does appear to be one problem with a victory here. It’s … never led to any others for anyone.
Peculiar stat: across the 11-year history of the @PuertoRicoOpen, no winner has gone on to win any other Tour event after their PR triumph. Only '09 winner Michael Bradley won again…in Puerto Rico two years later. And yes, that includes '16 champ Tony Finau.
— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) February 18, 2020
There is a 0 percent chance Hovland knows about that stat, and if there was going to be somebody to break the run, it’s going to be him. Hovland is a star, maybe a superstar. He does the thing you most need to do well (driving) as expertly as anyone in the world. Not, like, for a rookie. I’m saying Hovland is statistically one of the five best drivers of the golf ball in the world. Right now.
The question with Hovland has never been about talent or skill. He has a preposterous amount of both. Winning is different on the PGA Tour though. It’s more difficult than guys like Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy make it seem. Even at an opposite field event like the Puerto Rico Open.
It’s a good sign, then, that Hovland closed like he did early in his career — just like Wolff did in Minneapolis last summer. Because now with one under his belt and whatever weight he felt off his shoulders, anything — literally anything — is possible for the former Oklahoma State superstar.
Impossible not to love this guy 🇳🇴 pic.twitter.com/aSnYPdyNN0
— LKD (@LukeKerrDineen) February 23, 2020