Viktor Hovland’s crafty chip leads to birdie at Mayakoba
EXICO’S PLAYA DEL CARMEN – Danny Lee is far from the first golfer on the PGA TOUR to experiment with his driver to gain a little more speed.
He may, however, be the first to trigger a last-minute worry in one of his TOUR colleagues after just one swing.
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Lee, who finished T2 in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship last week, was in the middle of a speed-training session on Wednesday afternoon at the World Wide Technology Championship in Mayakoba. Viktor Hovland, who was sitting next to him, wanted to see how much more speed Lee could get with his driver, which is roughly an inch longer.
Lee stomped on one, shattering the shaft.
“That was completely unexpected,” Lee stated. “I felt terrible for him.” I would have offered him my spare driver if I had one, but I didn’t.”
Hovland stated, “I immediately looked up after he hit the shot and it was in pieces.”
Enter James Hahn, who had a Ping G-425 driver that was nearly identical to Hovland’s regular gamer.
“(Hovland) kept hitting it on the driving range, and he was hitting it really well,” Lee said.
The driver Hovland used on Thursday was the same brand, loft, and swing weight – with a little different shaft – as Hovland’s typical club, according to Kenton Oates, a PGA TOUR rep for Ping.
“Give a person like Viktor something close, and he’ll figure it out,” Oates added.
It didn’t appear to bother Hovland in the least. The defending champion in Mexico shot a 4-under 67 in the first round, missing only two fairways — both, he claimed, when he didn’t hit driver.
“It’s a little shorter, it’s a different shaft,” Hovland explained, “but it nearly helped me this week since it’s a little shorter.” “It definitely goes 10 yards shorter,” he says, “but I just felt like I could hit it a little lower and straighter.” So I’m really hammering that thing.”
Hovland, who finished fifth on the TOUR in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee last season, went to a different golf course in the vicinity on Wednesday to test the new driver in variable winds. Hovland, on the other hand, learned quickly.
“I was like, ‘This feels pretty wonderful.’ As soon as I… struck a couple with it, I was like, ‘This feels really nice.’ “I believe I can work with this,” Hovland remarked.
Hovland’s driving has always impressed Oates, and Hovland’s consistent shot shape has been combined with a nearly 6-mph increase in ball speed since joining the TOUR, according to Oates.
The fact that the break occurred in Mexico provided a unique circumstance for the Ping crew, according to Oates. The break occurred because Lee has such an intense recoil on his driver swing. If this had been the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open next week, Oates claimed he would have changed his driver in approximately 20 minutes.
Taylor Moore, a Ping staffer in Mexico wanting to get into the field as an alternate, was also eager to provide a competent replacement for Hovland, according to Oates.
When asked if Hovland might consider Hahn’s specs when he gets fitted into some new Ping equipment next year after his driving performance in the first round at El Camaleón Mayakoba Golf Course, Oates laughed.
“How about next year, dude?” “If he keeps hitting it like this, it may be next week,” Oates speculated. “When you play this game, a lot of times guys will say to their pals, ‘You know, I went to so-and-so club.’ This is a unique case, but it does occur (on TOUR), and the best appropriate process results.”
Will Lee try to make amends to Hovland in any way, even if it all worked out in the end for Hovland (and Lee, who started with a superb 3-under 68)?
“I’ll offer him something for sure in the future,” Lee promised.