U.S. Open: Viktor Hovland returns to Pebble with big goals for the future

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

U.S. Open: Viktor Hovland returns to Pebble with big goals for the future

USGA

U.S. Open: Viktor Hovland returns to Pebble with big goals for the future

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Viktor Hovland’s magical week on this enchanted land along the sea came last summer when he won the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.

He still, however, hasn’t totally grasped the significance of the victory.

“I don’t know if I truly know yet, because I don’t know kind of where the story is leading to,” Hovland said.

For starters, his tale continues this week as he returns to Pebble Beach to play in the U.S. Open as the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, which affords him a grouping with two-time reigning U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka and Champion Golfer of the Year Francesco Molinari the first two rounds.

Then the next chapter begins next week when he starts playing for cash in the Travelers Championship.

Hovland is just one of the Boys of Summer, a group of amateurs who are graduating to the best tour in the world. It’s a star-studded class that screams future success, led by the dynamic duo of Oklahoma State stars – Hovland and Matthew Wolff.

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Hovland, who earned the Ben Hogan Award as the top amateur of 2018-19, is set to play four consecutive PGA Tour events starting next week. Wolff, the Haskins Award winner as the top college golfer for 2018-19, will join him at the Travelers and likely will receive sponsor exemptions into five more events.

Joining the two in the Travelers will be former Cal standout Collin Morikawa, who won $125,400 for his tie for 14th in his debut last week in the RBC Canadian Open, and USC star Justin Suh, who missed the cut in his debut at the Memorial.

For now, however, Hovland still has the Oklahoma State feel. On his bag will be his coach, Alan Bratton, who was his caddie in the U.S. Amateur last year and carried the bag in this year’s Masters, where Hovland earned low amateur honors with a tie for 32nd. Hovland, the first Norwegian to win the U.S. Amateur, also will be sporting Oklahoma State logos on his bag, hat, shirt and belt.

Viktor Hovland putts on the fifth green during a practice round of the 2019 U.S. Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links. (Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

And in a Monday practice round, Hovland played with Rickie Fowler, a former OSU standout.

“Viktor is going to be fine. I’m not worried about him,” Fowler said. “It is an adjustment turning pro. Sometimes it takes longer for some guys than others. I’m excited for him to start his professional career soon. I think he’s going to have a lot of success. I hope that would be sooner rather than later. But I’m looking forward to helping him if I can at all. He may not need it. He might come out and just get on a run and go.”

Hovland has reached out to some pros for some advice but isn’t too worried about joining the pro ranks.

“I’m pretty laid back,” he said. “I’m thinking about the U.S. Open right now, and when I get to Connecticut next week, we’ll figure it out. There’s no real secret. You’ve just got to play good golf. Go about your business. Get a good routine and strategy to the course and just got to play good golf.”

And he thinks he’s ready to do just that. Hovland said he thought about keeping his amateur status, which would have given him a spot in the British Open as the reigning amateur champion. But ultimately, he decided to turn pro and hired Shay Knight to be his caddie. Knight has caddied for Martin Laird, Sean O’Hair, Luke List and Matt Jones.

“One of my biggest goals is to play the PGA Tour, and I thought the biggest or the best possible way to do that for me with the best chances was to turn pro after this week,” Hovland said. “I can still qualify to the Open, but obviously I’m going to make it a little harder for myself. It’s a good problem to have in a way. But you’ve just got to make those decisions sometimes.”

 

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