New swing coach, new patterns, same pursuit of flushing it: Inside the ‘insane part’ of Viktor Hovland’s brain

ORLANDO, Fla. — Six months after Viktor Hovland won the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup and a bundle of cash, he fired one coach, hired another and set off in pursuit of flushing his irons with the consistency and precision he “cherishes.”

“It’s been a little bit frustrating so far this year,” said Hovland, who has yet to record a top-10 finish in three starts this season, speaking at his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. “Feel like my swing hasn’t been quite as good as it has been in previous years, so it’s been, felt like I’ve tried to prioritize just being home and practicing, putting a lot of work in. Don’t really want to fight through something while playing, it’s just not that fun, and I don’t see the point of it.”

That explains why Hovland withdrew from the WM Phoenix Open after finishing T-58 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which was reduced to 54 holes in February.

What’s harder to explain is his musical chairs among instructors – from Jeff Smith to Joe Mayo and now taking his tips from former Tour pro Grant Waite.

“I’m a very curious guy. I like to ask questions,” Hovland said. “Sometimes when you ask a question and you get some answers, that leads you down a different path and opens up some new questions and you pursue a different path. I just want to kind of see where it goes. I always like to improve and expand my knowledge, and it just happened to lead me down to Grant Waite.”

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Hovland is 26 years old and the  winner of six Tour titles. He first played the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in 2020 after winning the U.S. Amateur. He’s finished tied for second and tied for 10th the last two seasons. When asked to describe what has been off with his game, he said, “It’s just the mechanics of the swing. Just haven’t been able to hit the shots that I want to.”

And that matters to Hovland almost as much as his score.

“I guess that’s kind of the insane part of my brain is that I just enjoy flushing a golf shot,” he said. “Obviously, we’re out here to compete and win tournaments, but I really just cherish being able to hit the shots exactly the way I want to. I think it’s a better predictor of how you’re going to play in the future.”

Hovland finished the 2022-23 season, during which he also won in May at the Memorial, with back-to-back wins at the BMW Championship, where he shot a final-round 61, and at the Tour Championship, and followed with a starring role in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory. So, parting ways with Mayo, who he credits with helping him improve his short game, made for an odd decision (not that his ball striking had many holes when he departed Smith for Mayo). Hovland clearly isn’t a proponent of the old saying that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“When you’re seeing a shot and your swing is not producing those shots, it becomes very tough to compete, especially at this level,” Hovland said, noting that he had been playing defensive golf instead of swinging with confidence. So, he’s spent countless hours reviewing old swings, especially from 2019 when he first turned pro as well as early 2021, which he tabbed as when he was swinging it best.

2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational
2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Viktor Hovland of Norway talks with Luke Donald of England during the pro-am ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Golf Course on March 06, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

“Kind of seeing the evolution of my swing. It’s very interesting,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of multiple different patterns.”

Hovland’s swing may remain a work-in-progress — “I’m just pressuring the ground a little bit differently,” he explained matter-of-factly — but his accurate driving and mid-iron excellence is why he’s usually in the hunt at Arnie’s Place. The question remains: Will he have enough confidence to make the shots he’s capable of in crunch time?

“If I can stand on the range or on a golf course, see a shot and execute that shot, that gives me confidence,” he said. “The most important thing is that you see the shots that you’re hitting and you have belief that you’re going to do that repeatedly.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek