ORLANDO, Fla. – As a Norwegian, Viktor Hovland is prepared to accomplish plenty of firsts for his country.
Last summer, the Oklahoma State junior became the first golfer from Norway to win the U.S. Amateur. Next month, he’ll break new ground by teeing it up in the Masters. He’ll be the first golfer from Norway to compete at Augusta National.
“In a way, I’m trying to not set the bar that low,” Hovland said.
Though still an amateur, Hovland is already the sixth-highest-ranked Norwegian in the Official World Golf Ranking. When he turns pro, which could be as soon as after this summer’s U.S. Open, he will likely be higher.
“The goal is to get to the PGA Tour as soon as possible,” said Hovland, who will have five sponsor invites left should he bypass his amateur exemption into the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
Not a bad problem to have, especially for a kid who before age 11 wanted to become the world’s next soccer star, just like his friends. Instead, Hovland is preparing for a promising pro career.
Hovland said there will be no clear signal to when he’ll surrender his amateur status. There is a slight possibility of him returning to Oklahoma State for his senior year, but Hovland made it clear that he’s leaning heavily toward a late-June jump.
“I feel comfortable on the bigger stage,” said Hovland, who made his first PGA Tour cut this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he shot a pair of 70s and finished at 1 under (equal with former Cowboy Rickie Fowler). “I just feel like my game needs to come around a little quicker. … but [it was] good to see that I can get around a course like this with below-average stuff.”
Hovland hopes he doesn’t have to grind it out around Augusta National next month, but he’ll enter that week with no expectations. He had plans to play Augusta National before the API, but now he’ll making a scouting trip after playing British Amateur champ Jovan Rebula in the Georgia Cup on March 31.
As for the week of the tournament, Hovland doesn’t have any practice-round pairings lined up yet, though he does know he’ll play alongside defending champion Patrick Reed in the first two rounds. He’s also looking forward to other traditions, such as the amateur dinner and staying a night in the Crow’s Nest.
“I just want to play well,” said Hovland, who will have Oklahoma State coach Alan Bratton on the bag, “and if I can play well it will be fun to see where I stack up.”