It's rare that a fourth PGA TOUR title will prove to be a watershed moment for a golfer.
But in winning the Memorial Tournament, Viktor Hovland finally prevailed in an event on American soil – his three prior victories coming in Puerto Rico and Mexico (twice).
Not only that, but the Memorial Tournament is also an 'elevated' event with a mammoth prize pool (Hovland walked away with the best part of £3 million) and a guaranteed high-quality field.
To celebrate, the Norwegian eschewed fancy parties into the early hours and instead upheld a promise to caddy for his old college roommate, Zach Bauchou, during U.S. Open Qualifying – an event that could provide Hovland with his maiden major title.
Hollywood BoundIn besting an elite-level field at the Memorial, Hovland has seen his US Open odds slashed to 18/1 – only six players, including bookmakers' favourite Scottie Scheffler (15/2) and Jon Rahm (8/1), are considered to have a better chance than him of lifting the trophy.
The likes of PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka, the in-form Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy, who temporarily held the lead at the Memorial Tournament, also add intrigue to the golf betting for the U.S. Open, which will be held at the Los Angeles Country Club later in June.
But there's no substitute for the confidence that a win can provide. For Hovland, this win came after a period of soul-searching about the state of his game.
Golf is a sport in which the players tend to mature over the years – eliminating risks from their game in favour of a more strategic, calculated approach. That's a notion that Hovland, despite his fledgling years, has begun to explore with his coaching team and his statistician, the three-time DP World Tour winner Edoardo Molinari.
The Italian's chief finding has been that Hovland is too aggressive with his approach play – aiming at pins that, when missed, leave him short-sided and facing a tough up-and-down chip to save par. For a player that ranks 135th on the PGA TOUR for Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green, that's less than optimal.
So the team devised a plan: simply hit more greens in regulation by aiming for the 'fatter' part of the putting surfaces, which if missed at least would ensure that Hovland is left with an easier chip.
That more measured outlook – "I'm way more conservative" being the Norwegian's own words – paid immediate dividends at the Memorial Tournament. And it may well come up trumps at the U.S. Open, an event that is traditionally set up as the toughest major of the year.
Promise KeptHovland is one of the good guys of golf – confirmed by keeping a promise to his old college buddy Bachou to act as his caddie during U.S. Open Qualifying on June 5.
The duo roomed together at Oklahoma State University and became firm friends, with Hovland promising to caddy for his old mate immediately after the Memorial Tournament.
Now THAT is a teammate!— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 5, 2023
Not even 24 hours after winning @PGATOUR's @MemorialGolf, Viktor Hovland is back out on Golf's Longest Day caddieing for his former @OSUCowboyGolf roommate Zach Bauchou. pic.twitter.com/SBXgqCVeL6
He stayed true to his word too, walking the entire 36 holes and carrying Bachou's bag as the 27-year-old failed to book his place in the U.S. Open field. But there was better news for the likes of Carlos Ortiz, Sebastian Munoz and Stewart Cink, who earned their spot after a gruelling day of qualification.
If staying humble is the true path to greatness, Hovland is already on course to securing his golf legacy – that journey will be accelerated if he can land a maiden major in California later this month.