Viktor Hovland announced himself as a superstar in the making when he shot a 4-under 67 to finish T12 at the US Open this month. The 21-year-old prodigy carded the lowest 72-round score by an amateur in the tournament’s long and storied history, breaking a record set by Jack Nicklaus in 1960. He finished ahead of such luminaries as Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari and Matt Kuchar, and he seized the Silver Medal by a comfortable margin. Hovland responded by instantly going pro and the golf world is extremely excited about his future prospects. But who exactly is Viktor Hovland?
He was born in Oslo, the capital of Norway, on Sept. 18, 1997, to Galina and Harald Hovland. He was a keen golfer growing up and he rose to prominence when he won the Norwegian National Championship for amateurs in 2014, at just 16 years old. The following year he landed the Norwegian International Trophy and dazzled with his brilliance in the Jacques Leglise Trophy. Hovland then broke the single-round course record at Estonian Golf & Country Club during the third round of the European Amateur Championship in 2016 en route to a runner-up finish.
In 2016, he was inundated with offers from the very best American colleges, who were all desperate to help him hone his talents. He turned down the University of Tennessee, Texas Tech University and Texas Christian University to join Oklahoma State University, following in the footsteps of Rickie Fowler. That has seen him wear the orange shirt Fowler has previously made famous at big tournaments. The decision to move to Oklahoma State has clearly paid off, as it helped him become the world’s best amateur.
Record Breaking Amateur Champion
Last year, Hovland delivered on his exceptional promise by becoming the US Amateur champion. He secured the coveted title with an emphatic 6&5 victory over American Devon Bling in the final at Pebble Beach in California. The Norwegian never once trailed his opponent during the 36-hole decider. Highlights of his performance included a fantastic birdie at the fourth after he hit his tee shot 40-foot down an embankment and then landed a wedge just 3 feet from the hole. Hovland seized four successive holes from the eighth and never relinquished his grip on the match.
He ended up breaking the record for the fewest holes played by a US Amateur champion as he was so dominant. Victory saw his name etched alongside the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Bobby Jones in the fabled roll call of previous tournament winners. “Tiger who?” he joked when asked how it felt. It earned him a trip to the Masters at Augusta and the US Open in 2019, and suggested he had a glorious career ahead of him.
At the time, Woods had gone a decade without a major triumph and many felt the great man was washed up. But he stormed back to his very best form in a sensational triumph at the Masters earlier this year, clinching a 15th major championship. It left him just three behind Nicklaus in the all-time stakes and capped a remarkable comeback from injuries and personal problems. It was one of the greatest sporting stories in history and Woods totally seized the limelight that week. Hovland flew under the radar, but he certainly did not disappoint at the Masters, as he secured an extremely creditable T32 finish.
He led a group of four amateurs into the weekend, the first time that had happened in the history of the Masters. They all deserve a great deal of praise, but Hovland ultimately finished clear of Alvaro Ortiz, Bling and Japan’s Takumi Kanaya to clinch the Silver Cup. He finished on 3 under par following three-consecutive rounds of 71, and that left him ahead of defending champion Patrick Reed and other big names including Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker.
Leading the Boys of Summer
In May 2019, he won the Ben Hogan Award as the best amateur golfer in America. By that point, he was top of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking and the Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking, so he stormed to victory in the Ben Hogan Award voting process. It made him the fifth junior from Oklahoma State to win the coveted award, and he is part of a phenomenal group of players graduating this year. It is known as the Boys of Summer and it also includes the precocious Matthew Wolff.
Wolff has been dubbed “the hottest amateur in golf”, but it is hard to argue with Hovland’s credentials in this department. Both men have just gone pro and they made their debuts in the Travelers Championship. Yet the greatest hype surrounds Hovland following his magnificent showing at the US Open. He was grouped with two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka – the world number one, who has wowed expert pundits at Marathonbet.co.uk with his genius over the past couple of years – and Champion Golfer of the Year Francesco Molinari the first two rounds, showing the extent to which the youngster had hit the big time. He was totally unfazed by being placed in such illustrious company.
He kept pace with Koepka throughout the opening round and found himself two under after 18 holes, just four shots back of leader Justin Rose. He made the cut with ease and finished the tournament with a 4-under-par 67 on the final day. He birdied the 18th and set that new 72-hole scoring record for an amateur in the US Open.
“It’s obviously cool to perform such a thing,” said Hovland after being informed of the record. “I hope that this will feed or I can feed off of this going into my professional career and do more things like this and be in contention of winning tournaments.”
Time to Go Pro
It landed him a second-consecutive triumph as the best amateur at a major and followed a run of four wins and 19 top-10 finishes in the past two seasons. He became the first player since Matt Kuchar in 1998 to earn low amateur honours in both the Masters and the US Open in the same year. He was branded “a smiling assassin” and “Dustin Johnson 2.0”, which is high praise indeed. His swing is all about power and he is capable of leading the game into a glorious new era.
Now Hovland is preparing to launch himself as a pro, and some leading lights from across the golfing world are excited about his prospects of flourishing.
Fowler played with him in a warm-up round before the US Open and said: “I’m excited for him to start his professional career soon. I think he’s going to have a lot of success. I hope that would be sooner rather than later. But I’m looking forward to helping him if I can at all. He may not need it. He might come out and just get on a run and go.”
It’s worth noting that Hovland sacrificed an automatic amateur entry to The Open at Portrush when he turned pro and will only now qualify with a win between now and then, or some high finishes.
The focus now is to make a name for himself on the PGA Tour, by working hard and thriving at big tournaments. He has hired Shay Knight – former caddy to Martin Laird, Sean O’Hair, Luke List and Matt Jones – to accompany him on the journey and his prospects look fantastic.