Sam’s Section: Why Viktor Hovland will be a major champion in 2024 

Viktor Hovland, of Norway, left, celebrates winning the Tour Championship golf tournament with the FedEx Cup trophy with Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA, on the 18th green, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

This past Sunday, Viktor Hovland was swarmed by fans at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta as he became the FedEx Cup champion by winning the Tour Championship. During the final round when it was clear Hovland was going to win, CBS Sports announcers Jim Nantz and Trevor Immelman said that it was just a matter of time before he wins a major championship. I completely agree. 

Hovland was the low amateur in the 2019 Masters Tournament, the year he turned professional. He secured his PGA Tour card later that year by finishing tied for second in the Albertsons Boise Open. 

A year later Hovland secured his first and second wins on the PGA Tour in Puerto Rico and Mexico. He played in the 2021 Ryder Cup for the European team, and the next year skyrocketed up to third in the Official World Golf Ranking after winning back-to-back weeks on the European Tour. He’s finished in the top 10 in the last two Players Championships and was in the final group on Sunday at last year’s Open Championship. This year, the Oklahoma State alum contended at the first two major championships, finishing tied for seventh at the Masters Tournament and tied for second at the PGA Championship. He won his first PGA Tour event of the season in a playoff over Denny McCarthy at the Memorial Tournament. 

The last two weeks have been the best of his career. At Olympia Fields Country Club, just outside of Chicago, Hovland won by two strokes over Matt Fitzpatrick and Scottie Scheffler. This past weekend, despite an incredible round from Xander Schauffele, Hovland became the first Norwegian to win the FedEx Cup, with one of the best putting performances of his career. 

Hovland was statistically one of the best players on the PGA Tour this season. He finished in the top 10 in most strokes gained statistics and fifth in scoring average. 

Viktor Hovland, of Norway, celebrates winning the Tour Championship golf tournament and holds a Siver replica club of Golfer Bobby Jones’ putter, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

After his incredible performance during the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Hovland became No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking and will be one of the best players overall at the upcoming Ryder Cup. 

The major championships next year are the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, the U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort (No. 2) in North Carolina, and The Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland. 

Hovland could win at Augusta National in April. He’s proven that he can contend, finishing top 10 last year. He was seventh off the tee, 11th in tee to green, 13th in putting, and seventh in total strokes gained. He has made four consecutive cuts but did not play in 2020. The last eight first-time major champions at the Masters have finished in the top six in a previous major. 

Valhalla Golf Club hasn’t hosted the PGA Championship since 2014, and there’s no record of Hovland ever playing there. However, it is a Jack Nicklaus-designed course, and Hovland has won on a course designed by the Golden Bear, at The Country Club at Muirfield Village in Ohio.  Hovland has made four consecutive cuts. Five of the last seven first-time major champions at the PGA Championship finished in the top 10 in a previous major, with the exceptions of Keegan Bradley and Collin Morikawa. 

The U.S. Open has given Hovland the most trouble out of the four major championships. After back-to-back top-15 finishes in his first two appearances, including winning the low amateur in 2019, Hovland withdrew from the 2021 U.S. Open and missed the cut last year. He bounced back at Los Angeles Country Club (North) this year, finishing 19th. Hovland would have played this course at the 2019 U.S. Amateur had he decided not to go professional that year. Pinehurst No. 2 was originally designed by Donald J. Ross, who also redesigned East Lake Golf Club in 1913. Nine of the 11 previous first-time major champions at the U.S. Open had finished in the top 10 before winning, the other two being Wyndham Clark and Webb Simpson. 

The Open Championship has been the best tournament for Hovland. He finished tied for 12th in his debut, tied for fourth last year, and tied for 13th in July. The keys to winning the final major of the season are a player’s short game and putting, and he has been terrific at both of those this season, especially lately. The last six first-time major champions at The Open Championship have finished either in second or tied for second at a major before winning. 

Hovland finished second this season in aggregate major score among those who made the cut at all four major championships. 

Bob Tway and Clark are the only former Oklahoma State golfers to win major championships, and Hovland could join them. 

Hovland has already made a lot of history being the first Norwegian to win the PGA Tour, and he could be the first to win this season’s Player of the Year award with three wins including two FedEx Cup Playoff events. It’s just a matter of time before he’s winning major championships. 

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