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Viktor Hovland reunites with swing coach Joe Mayo, shoots 68 at PGA Championship

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Viktor Hovland of Norway plays his shot from the 12th tee during the first round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 16, 2024, in Louisville, Kentucky. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Viktor Hovland of Norway plays his shot from the 12th tee during the first round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 16, 2024, in Louisville, Kentucky. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)



    Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Viktor Hovland sent a high buttery cut into the setting Louisville sun and looked up to a familiar sight. He and his caddie, Shay Knight, were alone on the Valhalla driving range. A few yards away, PGA club professional Wyatt Worthington had just called it a night. Hovland was the only one left.

    Thursday’s tee time at the PGA Championship was less than 14 hours away, but there was work to do. That booming cut he just hit into the sky felt more like a high push fade to Hovland.

    “There’s always something to work on,” Hovland said.

    Hovland is infamous for late-night practice sessions that outlast volunteers, fans and maintenance workers. It doesn’t matter if he’s contending or missing cuts, Hovland is often burning the midnight oil, working on any idiosyncrasy in his swing. After every few passes at the ball Wednesday night, Hovland stopped to look at swing videos and make some adjustments before returning to his stance.

    After a couple more rips, Hovland grabbed his phone. A notable voice was on the other line – swing coach Joe Mayo.

    In a scene that looked so familiar on the practice range, that was new – at least this year.

    Mayo worked with Hovland during his breakthrough 2023 campaign that featured three wins, a FedExCup trophy and his best chance to win a major at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill. But the two parted ways over the offseason as Hovland wanted a different direction.

    That led to a massively disappointing start to 2024 and a reversal of all the momentum he gained from the FedExCup Playoffs and a 3-1-1 record at the Ryder Cup. So Hovland reached back out last week, hoping Mayo could help rekindle the magic. It didn’t take long to find it.

    “He knows my swing really well. He's really, really smart, and just has a way of looking at my swing and kind of knowing what it is right away,” Hovland said. “(I) felt like I got some really good answers, was able to apply some of the feels right away, and I saw improvement right away.”

    The evidence was there Thursday at Valhalla. Hovland shot 3-under 68 and gained strokes on the field in every area of his game. He made five birdies to two bogeys. Most importantly, he felt under control.

    Hovland’s time away from Mayo was largely spent trying to achieve heightened control. He left the 2023 season unsure whether his play was sustainable. Sure, he won the BMW Championship and TOUR Championship and played an instrumental role in Team Europe’s decisive victory at the Ryder Cup, but Hovland had nagging worries about his swing. He felt the way he swung it in 2020 and 2021 was more conducive to the consistency he craved.

    He started working with Grant Waite and Dana Dahlquist and went down “other rabbit holes.” Hovland has never shied away from more information. He famously learned how to swing by watching YouTube videos. He still looks there for answers on occasion. His willingness to scour for answers, wherever they may come from, is part of what has made Hovland great.

    It also appeared to be the catalyst for Hovland’s performance dip. The Norwegian entered this week’s PGA Championship without a top 10 this season. He dropped off statistically in every Strokes Gained category, most notably his iron play. The chipping issues, which Mayo helped correct in 2023, returned. He was 113th in SG: Total this season, easily on pace for the worst mark of his career. He was eighth in SG: Total last year.

    Naturally, that led Hovland back to Mayo.

    “I was trying to get back to what is the most natural for me to do instead of going down these other rabbit holes,” Hovland said. “So that's just what we're doing.”

    Hovland will need to sustain his play for much longer than 18 holes. He shot an opening-round 71 at the Masters only to card an 81 the next day and miss the cut.

    But Hovland feels he’s getting back on track. That’s as important as the results.

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