How the new USGA rule would have affected Viktor Hovland this season

Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports

How the new USGA rule would have affected Viktor Hovland this season

Golf

How the new USGA rule would have affected Viktor Hovland this season

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The new change allowing winners of the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur to play in the U.S. Open after turning pro has already been christened the “Viktor Hovland Rule.”

But it may not have changed Hovland’s FedEx Cup playoff fate this season had the new rule been in effect.

Hovland, who left Oklahoma State and turned pro after playing in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June, missed the FedEx Cup Playoffs and a spot on the 2019-20 PGA Tour by just 67 projected points after finishing three shots back of winner J.T. Poston at the Wyndham Championship Sunday.

Hovland won the 2018 U.S. Amateur championship and missed out on securing his Tour card for this upcoming season automatically Sunday. Instead, he will give it a shot in the Korn Ferry Finals.

In his five starts as a pro this summer, Hovland finished T-54 at the Travelers, T-13 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, T-13 at the 3M Open, T-16 at the John Deere and fourth at the Wyndham.

Here’s where it gets tricky.

Hovland finished T-12 as an amateur in the U.S. Open this past June at Pebble Beach Golf Links. It was the same course where he won his U.S. Amateur crown.

Had his U.S. Open finish this season been counted toward his FedExCup total, Hovland still likely would have missed the margin to reach the playoffs – by one point.

The other three 12th-place finishers at the U.S. Open were Matthew Fitzpatrick, Matt Wallace and Danny Willett.

Fitzpatrick and Wallace are ineligible to receive FedEx Cup points, since they primarily play on the European Tour.

Willett, who is eligible for FedEx Cup points, received 66.25 points for his T-12 finish at Pebble Beach.

The total number of the FedEx Cup points allotted for the 12-15th place finishers of the U.S. Open is 265. That number divided by four is 66.25.  Had Hovland been eligible for FedEx Cup points in the U.S. Open, he, too, would have been awarded the same 66.25 points as Willett, given that he was also in a four-way tie for 12th.

Adding 66.25 points to his projected total would have left him less than one point shy of Pat Perez, who finished in 125th place Sunday in the FedEx Cup points list.

This presumes the total of Perez – or anyone else between him and Hovland in the standings – would have been unaffected by the changes caused by Hovland.

Sort of like in “Back To The Future” when you’re not supposed to alter events in the past. Change just one thing, and Marty McFly’s entire family is wiped off the face of the universe.

In terms of money, the three 12th-place finishers at the U.S. Open earned $226,609. Putting Hovland into that mix would have lowered the amount to $218,565, and had a domino effect on all the finishers below the 15th spot, as well.

This is all conjecture because one has no way to determine how someone would play as a pro – with money on the line – versus how they play as an amateur. And none of Hovland’s points actually count because he never won a PGA Tour event nor did he finish in the top 125 of the FedEx Cup standings.

The USGA’s new rule doesn’t change how the Tour allots and counts points. But it would have allowed Hovland to turn pro earlier – had he desired – without losing his spot in golf’s national championship.

Hovland played as an amateur in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, (T-40 finish), the Masters (T-32), in addition to the U.S. Open.

However, under current rules, he would not have qualified for the Masters or the API had he turned pro.

Both tournaments allow for the current U.S. Amateur winner to play – if he is still an amateur. So for this new rule to have helped Hovland, the Masters, API (and presumably other events) would have had to change their rules, as well.

There’s no telling how many other PGA Tour events Hovland would have played in had he turned pro earlier.

The API does have spots for 18 sponsor exemptions, including eight that are unrestricted.

If Hovland had been allowed to play in the API as a pro and if he finished T-40, it would have been worth 13.5 points. His T-32 finish at the Masters would have been worth 19.26 points.

Those potential points from the API would have pushed Hovland into the FedExCup playoffs and given him a spot on the 2019-20 Tour.

But that’s a lot of “ifs.”

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