Skip to main content

Viktor Hovland Hopes a Short Game ‘Eureka Moment’ Will Carry Him at Augusta National

Just moments after he broke through at the 2020 Puerto Rico Open to capture his maiden PGA Tour victory, Viktor Hovland poked fun of a gaping weakness in his game—but the comment was telling. 

“I just suck at chipping,” Hovland said. “I definitely need to work on my short game.” 

Hovland had successfully identified and admitted his major weakness. Understanding the root of that weakness would prove to be more difficult. 

Since Puerto Rico, Hovland has clinched six more professional victories, but his short game woes haven’t quite worked themselves out—until now. 

The Norwegian will make his fourth Masters appearance this week, and he’s entering with what he believes is a proper diagnosis of his lingering chipping issues. Hovland says that he recently turned a corner with his short game work, to the point of having a “Eureka” moment. 

“I've just kind of kept continuing to gain confidence around the greens,” Hovland explained. “Got some weapons around the green here now. The bunker's not an auto bogey. I feel like I can spin it in the bunkers even though the sand is a little bit fluffy. Short-sided is no problem.”

The inkling of being in an “auto-bogey” position anywhere around the greens is atypical of a Tour player. But that was a serious hurdle for Hovland. Before Hovland understood where he was going wrong around the greens, the 25-year-old simply felt lost.

In his long game, Hovland hits a signature power cut with an extreme bowed left wrist at the top of the backswing. Those mechanics don’t necessarily lend well for delicate short game shots, as Golf Digest’s Luke Kerr-Dineen explains in this deep dive into Hovland’s move. Significant shaft lean and a closed clubface in the takeaway—both natural elements of Hovland’s swing—cause the leading edge to dig into the ground while chipping, a recipe for disaster.  

Hovland effectively had to ditch the comfortable elements of his full swing around the greens in order to excel—emulating some of the best in the game. 

“It's constantly a process. I think I just understand the short game a lot better. I was too caught up in figuring out what I wanted to do with my hands and wrists where that wasn't really the issue. I was tilting back a bit too much,” Hovland said. “Once I saw what the best players are doing and how they chip well and I just tried to do the same, and it was kind of like a Eureka moment.”

As for Hovland’s putting, he admits his head was a bit scrambled on the greens as well. 

“I just had too many thoughts over the ball. Instead of only focusing about the speed, I was thinking about the line and the stroke. It was just a little bit of chaos,” Hovland said. 

For the 2021-2022 PGA Tour season, Hovland ranked 99th in scrambling and 150th in sand save percentage. So far, in the 2022-2023 season, the former Masters low-amateur has improved those ranks to 29th and 24th, respectively. 

It might have taken a while to materialize, but the upward trend is there as Hovland looks ahead to a Thursday tee time at Augusta National.