ORLANDO, Fla. — Viktor Hovland recently triumphed in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Dubai’s desert. During the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the temperature reached 83 degrees, and the 24-year-old Norwegian warmed up perfectly, shooting a 6-under 66 at Bay Hill Lodge & Club. As a result, Robert Damron of PGA Tour Live asked Hovland, “Why does a Norwegian prefer hot weather so much?”
“I’m not sure,” he admitted. “I used to swing with five layers on, so it’s kind of wonderful when all you have on is a golf shirt.”
In his previous seven starts, Hovland has three wins and two more top-five finishes, making him probably the hottest golfer on the planet. The World No. 4 needed oven mitts for his molten putter on Friday. In total, he made only 23 putts and gained nearly five strokes on the greens versus the field, a Tour-best performance.
Viktor Hovland: 4.85 strokes gained putting today, his career-high in any PGA Tour round.
4-for-4 between 7-10 feet today. He was making 58% from that range this season entering the round.
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) March 4, 2022
“I didn’t realize it was that few.” He added, “I knew I putted good, but I had no idea it was 23.” “I simply saw the lines quite clearly and was able to begin it online.” It’s easy to keep that feeling going throughout the day when you see a couple come in early.”
That’s exactly what Hovland did. Starting on the back nine, he started his birdie parade by holing an 18-foot putt at No. 10. He added a 9-foot birdie at No. 12, then lost a stroke at No. 13 with his lone bogey of the day. But, beginning at 15, he made a run of three birdies in a row, including a nine-foot tee shot on the par-3 17th, where he had a perfect number for his 5-iron (232 yards) and hammered his tee shot. On the inward side, Hovland kept his card clean and recorded birdies at both par 5s (Nos. 4 and 6). Among the early second round finishers, his 66 moved him to 9-under 135 and a two-stroke lead over 2020 API champion Tyrrell Hatton.
Hovland’s performance at Arnie’s Place last year, when he opened 69-68, feels all too similar. The weekend, however, was a different story, as he shot rounds of 77-78 and fell to T-49.
Hovland phrased it this way: “I got kicked in the teeth.”
“I’m trying to forget about last year’s weekend here,” he continued. “Every day, the course gets harder and harder, and it started blowing.” After a few too many unpleasant swings, I found myself in a difficult place and didn’t take my medicine as prescribed. Instead of playing wise and taking the bogey when you’re out of position, I kind of exacerbated the errors.”
Hovland said he learnt from the experience and that it will help him this weekend. Is he worried that he’ll have deja vu all over again? He’s not the superstitious sort, thankfully.
“I have one item,” he explained. “I always keep my marker in my left pocket since I used to put it in my right pocket but also placed my glove in there when I was a kid.” The coin would fall off when I pulled out my glove. I always have it in my left pocket, even though I now carry it in my back pocket.”
On Friday, his quarter, which he uses to mark his ball, proved to be more than fortunate. He was fantastic.