CROMWELL, Conn. — If Viktor Hovland didn’t become a household name after his impressive win at the US Amateur last summer, he certainly did after earning low amateur honors at both the Masters and the US Open, including a T-11 finish at Pebble Beach.
The 21-year-old turned heads last week with his crisp ball striking and led the field in strokes gained off the tee at Pebble. After capping off his amateur career at the site of his greatest triumph, it only made sense for Hovland to debut as a pro at the Travelers Championship.
The Travelers Championship has become the event where young players often burst onto the scene. Among many breakout stories at TPC River Highlands, Patrick Cantlay shot 60 as an amateur in 2011. Hovland didn’t post 60, but he was impressive in shooting a 67 on Thursday in his first round as a professional. A final-round 73 was a tough way to end the week, but Hovland will take away some positives.
“It’s nice to make the cut, but I did not play very good today and certainly left a lot of shots out there. The first three rounds too,” Hovland said. “I’m trying to learn as much as I can from it and hopefully we can play a little bit better in the upcoming weeks.”
It is far too early to predict where Hovland’s career is headed, Hovland appears to be on European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington’s radar ahead of the 2020 Ryder Cup.
“At the end of the day, I want to ask myself, ‘Is he possibly going to be in my team next year?’” Harrington told Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio. “Every Ryder Cup throws up two or three rookies, there’s no way for me to predict all the names that would be in there, but certainly Viktor Hovland showed his colors last week.
“I would hope that he would take European membership and make an effort to make the team because if he’s as good as he looks, he’ll probably be in that team.”
Hovland has excelled in match play his entire career, including at the US Amateur where Hovland dominated as he trailed for just one hole in six matches. Hovland won the tournament while playing the fewest number of holes in match play since the event went to a 64-man format in 1979, tying Danny Lee’s record from Pinehurst in 2008.
The Oklahoma State product was also 5-0 in match play at the NCAA Championship, where he helped the Cowboys win the NCAA men’s national championship in 2018.
No matter how much success a player has in college — Hovland won the Ben Hogan award as the best college player in the nation — the transition to the pro game is always a tough one.
“It’s time management. You’ve got to get used to everything that’s outside the course,” Hovland said. “Normally in a college tournament you just show up, hit balls, and that’s it. But there’s a lot more to it out here.”
Hovland earned another sponsor’s exemption to the Rocket Mortgage Classic next week and will likely use all seven of his exemptions in the hopes of earning enough FedEx Cup points to secure a PGA Tour card for next season.