The final putt is usually the image we remember from a victory, especially when it’s a must-make for birdie. Viktor Hovland now has two of those on his PGA Tour résumé, the first coming this past February in Puerto Rico, the second coming today in Mexico. Two birdie putts, two winning fist pumps, two huge smiles from the former US Amateur champion. Those are the two images we’ll remember from the 23-year-old Norwegian’s first two tour wins.
But on this day at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, the far more important moment for Hovland came at the par-4 16th. With Aaron Wise having already chased him down en route to a closing 63, Hovland could not afford to drop a shot. That appeared to be exactly what was going to happen at 16, where Hovland badly blocked his approach into the bunker right of the green.
Hovland was able to splash one to about seven feet, then poured in the par putt. That kept him in a tie for the lead at 19-under, and he was able to finish par-birdie to win for the second time in 2020. Under intense pressure, Hovland came up with his best stuff.
If Hovland admitting he sucks at chipping in February wasn’t brutally honest enough, he was even more blunt after the final putt dropped in Mexico. If he looked comfortable out there as he shot a closing 65, allow him to assure you that he most certainly was not.
“I don’t really feel like I’m good at those pressure situations, honestly,” Hovland said. “I was shaking there in the end. I thought I lost it after the second shot on 16. Made an awesome par there, missed a putt on 17 and knew I had to make birdie on 18, and it just happened to go in. Yeah, don’t feel comfortable in those moments at all.”
All evidence is pointing to the contrary so far in his young career. He was absolutely locked in when he won the US Amateur at Pebble Beach in 2018, then made a bomb of a putt on the 72nd hole in Puerto Rico for his first pro win. Down the stretch today, he executed every shot that was required to win, including the tournament-winning putt, a right-to-left 10 footer to seal the deal.
“Obviously there is a lot of up and down in your body that you’re feeling, but my golf was very steady today,” Hovland said, finally giving himself some credit. “It could have been a lot more stressful.”
With the win, Hovland ended one of the strangest curses in professional golf. Prior to today, no former winner of the Puerto Rico Open had gone on to win another PGA Tour event. Based off his amateur résumé, Hovland figured to be the guy who eventually would put that one to bed. Next up: Tony Finau.