NASSAU, Bahamas – Viktor Hovland’s 2022 was a study in how a player can move into the top 3 in the world with little fanfare outside of Oslo, Norway.
It was his victory at the Dubai Desert Classic that vaulted the 25-year-old to No. 3 in the world. He then solidified his spot among the game’s best with three consecutive top-10 finishes in the spring on the PGA Tour, including a runner-up finish at The Players Championship.
But it was what followed that hot spring that at least partially explains the relative lack of attention paid to his climb.
After The Players, Hovland managed just a single top-10 finish and had fallen out of the top 10 by the end of the season.
“I feel like I should have won more tournaments this year. There's a couple that stings or a couple just tournaments that I just didn't play well enough,” he admitted. “There were too many weeks where I just kind of had to grind and get through the round instead of showing up and attacking and feel like I was going to shoot 7, 8 under.”
Hovland moved back into the top 10 in the world on Sunday thanks to a closing 69 at the Hero World Challenge that should serve as a notice – this climb will not be as quiet.
Thanks to a renewed focus on putting, driven largely by his use of Aimpoint to help read lines better, Hovland – who beat world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler by two shots on Sunday at Albany – is confident his game is much more sustainable.
“When I first came out, I feel like my ball-striking, the quality of the ball-striking wasn't as good, but I hit it super, super straight and it felt like I could shoot 2 to 3 under every single day without really making putts. That was nice in one way, but as soon as I was a little bit off, I would shoot over par,” he explained. “Whereas this year it's kind of been a little bit of the opposite where my ball-striking's been off and I've been putting really well just to shoot a couple under par. It kind of takes some pressure off, I don't have to stripe it to shoot under par, I can actually rely on my putting to hang in there.”
Hovland’s improvement on the greens was dramatic, with a jump from 99th in strokes gained: putting in 2021 to 25th this season. Although there were no advanced ShotLink statistics at Albany, he needed just 47 putts over the weekend for his second consecutive Hero World Challenge victory.
His climb in 2022 was impressive, but it’s the improvements he made on the greens this year that will not go unnoticed in 2023.