Four years before FedEx Cup champion Viktor Hovland made a statement to the golf world about the type of player he wants to be, the Norwegian showed what kind of personality he wanted to be.

At the 2019 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands, Hovland was making his pro debut following a stellar amateur and college career at Oklahoma State. He was rolled out alongside Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff and Justin Suh for a joint press conference showcasing the tour’s next generation. After 10 minutes of questions about the California connection between Morikawa, Suh and Wolff –natives of the Sunshine state – Hovland was asked about his upbringing in Norway. “Growing up in Oslo, Norway, or ‘California 2.0’ as we call it, it’s a completely different situation,” Hovland said as a pack of reporters burst into laughter.

Hovland, now 25, has been one of the most popular personalities on the PGA Tour since. But while his goofy sense of humour won over fans, Morikawa and Matt Wolff’s meteoric rises overshadowed Hovland. Wolff and Morikawa won in their first handful of starts on the PGA Tour, while Hovland took until the following year to win his maiden title in the US. He also winning twice in Europe. Morikawa broke away from them all with majors at the 2020 PGA and 2021 Open Championship.

This year, however, and especially this summer, Hovland has begun to fulfil the potential most knew he had. A prolific ball-striker, the 25-year-old has turned around his short game from ranking 99th in strokes gained: around the green last year to 60th this year. The hard work paid off in the form of three wins in 2023: the Memorial Tournament in June; the BMW Championship last week, when he shot a final-round 61; and Sunday’s Tour Championship and FedEx Cup victory at East Lake.

“He’s one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the world and a hell of a player,” said Rory McIlroy, who finished fourth despite a back injury. Hovland’s Ryder Cup teammate, Matt Fitzpatrick, agreed with McIlroy: “He is just so straight and so accurate; tee to green he is phenomenal,” Fitzpatrick said.

Hovland slept on a six-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round. Showing no nerves, he posted a bogey-free 63 to finish at 27 under par using the Tour Championship’s adjusted scoring. The victory secured an $18 million FedEx Cup bonus, after winning $3.6 million in Chicago last week. Xander Schauffele, once a winner at East Lake and never worse than seventh, posted a valiant 62 to be runner up at 22 under. Schauffele’s 25th under par score from 28 rounds ensured a second-place check of $6.5 million.

Hovland began East Lake at No.2 on the FedEx Cup leaderboard, two shots back of FedEx Cup pre-tournament leader, Scottie Scheffler. He couldn’t afford mistakes. And there weren’t many, especially around the greens. On the 14 times Hovland missed the green across four rounds, he saved par 12 times.

Arguably the biggest par save of the week was No.14 on Sunday, when Schauffele was within three shots. His improved short game briefly deserted Hovland as he left his pitch shot 23 feet short, but made the putt. “That putt was huge; two shots with four [holes] to go is a different [mindset] than three shot,” he said.

McIlroy says that’s where he’d blossomed as an elite player.

“I think as we all know he’s improved around the greens this year,” the three-time FedEx Cup winner said. “That’s been the difference from being a top-10 player in the world to what he’s done this year.”

Tommy Fleetwood, who finished T6, reminded reporters that despite being on tour for four years, Hovland was still only in his mid-20s. The best, Fleetwood said, was likely yet to come.

“He’s not that old, the Englishman said. “Nobody’s going to be the finished package at that age, really. Apart from maybe Tiger Woods. But he’s, I think he’s showing how good he truly can be.”

It is only a month until Hovland can show his matured skills on one of the biggest stages he’ll ever face – a Ryder Cup on European soil. McIlroy welcomed any possibility of a pairing in Rome.

“Four-balls, foursomes [wouldn’t matter] … if someone came along to any of us on the team and said we’re going to put you out with Viktor today I don’t think anyone would say no,” he said.