In Round 1 at Mayakoba, defending champion Viktor Hovland cruised to a 67 with James Hahn’s driver after a driving range disaster where Danny Lee swung Hovland’s driver to pieces.
But everything happens for a reason, they say, and the 24-year-old Norweigan may have gotten a blessing in disguise after a second-round 65 put him atop the leaderboard with his former college teammate, Matthew Wolff, at 10 under following the morning wave.
“I’m hitting it really straight off the tee and was able to set up some really nice birdie looks with some good approaches,” he said.
Hahn uses a Ping G425 model – as does Hovland – but with a shorter shaft. However, Hovland may have found himself a new and improved toy.
“Honestly, yeah, I think from an accuracy standpoint, I think [Hahn’s] driver might be better,” he said.
Full-field scores from the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba
Hovland hit eight out of 14 fairways, four less than Round 1. But even though his driving accuracy went down, his spot on the leaderboard went up after converting five birdies on the back nine.
“I’m hitting it really straight off the tee and was able to set up some really nice birdie looks with some good approaches,” he said. “It was a little bit difficult early on in the morning because the ball just went so short and I hit a lot of good shots that just ended up 25, 30 feet short, but as soon as it got a little hotter and I was able to adjust a little bit better, I stuck the ball a little bit closer and rolled some nice putts in.”
The path to success had a few bumps in the road, though. After starting on the back nine, Hovland headed to the par-4 first at 3 under for the day. But an obstacle would prevent a bogey-free round.
“I get to the first hole, hit it in the left rough and I didn’t have very far in and I pushed it a little bit and literally landed four steps right of the pin, hits a sprinkler head and goes in the trees over the green,” he said of how he made double bogey. “That was obviously, that’s a bad break, but it’s not like I sliced it OB or something like that. I knew I was playing good golf, so I just had to reset, and I was happy I made five birdies coming in.”
If Hovland can keep up his game for another 36 holes, he could become the first Tour player to successfully defend a tournament title since Brooks Koepka’s 2019 PGA win at Bethpage Black. In order to try and make that happen, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy will stick to Friday’s game plan and the new driver, too.
“It’s all just kind of knowing what the wind is doing,” he said, “because it was a different wind direction today and it definitely changes a couple of tee shots with club selections and stuff like that. It all depends kind of what the conditions are and where the pins are at. Other than it, it’s just kind of point and shoot.”