Keys to success: Viktor Hovland’s stats showcase his path to becoming 2023 FedExCup Champion
6 Min Read
Written by Jacqueline Shelly
Viktor Hovland won the FedExCup by having one of the most consistently strong regular season performances on TOUR. He entered the Playoffs at seventh in the standings thanks to a win at the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday and finishing in the top 25 in more than 75 percent of his starts (18 of 23). And while it’s well known that players strategize their schedules to peak at specific times, winning the PGA TOUR FedExCup requires the delicate balance of maintaining season-long consistency and peaking for the Playoffs.
The Strokes Gained statistics are a great indicator to showcase players’ strengths as well as how their performances have changed from year to year. In the case of reigning FedExCup Champion Viktor Hovland, his Strokes Gained rankings on TOUR point to his longtime excellence off the tee and on approach shots. He ranks in the top 10 in both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green this season.
Comparing Hovland’s rankings this season to last season, his biggest improvement was undoubtedly his short game, confirming the work he’s done with new coach Joseph Mayo. Hovland moved up nearly 100 positions in SG: Around-the-Green. Looking deeper into Hovland’s strengths and most-improved areas, we now know where to dive deeper into the stats to analyze his season.
Viktor Hovland’s transformed short game leads to FedExCup title
Hovland’s timely peak
Hovland averaged 66.2 strokes per round in the FedExCup Playoffs. His last 11 rounds were all in the 60s. His scoring bettered the field average by 2.75 strokes per round, especially impressive considering the strength of those fields. The chart below shows how his last 12 rounds compared to the field average.
Hovland joins elite company in season consistency
Hovland made the cut in all 23 of his starts this season, a rare accomplishment. Since the FedExCup began in 2007, it’s something that’s been done just 30 times, which represents less than 1% of all seasons by players making at least 10 starts in the season.
Live Hovland, Xander Schauffele and Scottie Scheffler also did not missing a single cut. The last time this was achieved by a player eligible for the FedExCup was Rory McIlroy in 2020. The chart below shows how rare it is for multiple players to not miss a cut in a single season. It should be noted that the 2013 season was truncated and did not feature a fall portion because the wraparound season was introduced beginning that fall, one reason for the unmatched six players who didn’t miss a cut in 2013.
- 50% finished in the FedExCup top 10 at the end of TOUR Championship
- Viktor Hovland and Tiger Woods (’07) went on to win the FedExCup
- Steve Stricker leads with four seasons with no missed cuts (’10,’11,’13,’14)
Season stat indicators: Strokes Gained areas
By the time the TOUR Championship has been completed, a player has compiled a large enough sample for Strokes Gained to give an accurate assessment of his season and produce a baseline for comparison to other campaigns.
The below chart depicts Hovland’s rankings across the Strokes Gained categories in the previous two seasons, illustrating his changes from one year to the next.
He drastically outperforms the rest of the TOUR in SG: Off-the-Tee (OTT) and SG: Approach-the-Green (ATG), using a combination of power and precision. His biggest improvement is shown in SG: Around-the-Green (ARG), moving up almost 100 positions this season over last season.
Off the Tee (OTT)
Considering both distance and accuracy, the stat that showcases his outperformance in both is Total Driving, where Hovland has ranked inside the top 10 in each of the last three seasons. The Total Driving statistic accounts for both distance and accuracy, ranking players by the sum of their standing in both Driving Accuracy and Driving Distance.
|Season||Official Rank||Total Driving|
- Total Driving = Official Driving Distance (Measured Drives) Rank + Official Driving Accuracy Rank
Importance of Driving Accuracy
In 2023, the TOUR average penalty for a missed fairway was + 0.36 strokes. This penalty accounts for scoring differences between those that miss the fairway at any location to scores where the approach shot was hit from the fairway. The statistic is introduced here:
Missed Fairway Penalty (OTT) = Average Score (Non-Fairway Locations) – Average Score (Fairway)
Below is a breakout of the average missed fairway penalty at each event this season, identifying how much different venues penalize players who stray from the short grass.
Penalty factors vary by course and include but are not limited to rough height, tree obstructions, fairway widths, water hazards and bunkers. This penalty can be modified to determine rough penalty or hazard penalty differences at each event.
Driving Accuracy and relationship to Greens in Regulation (GIR)
Given the established importance of Driving Accuracy and its rewards, the statistic is also a feature in The TOUR Win Probability powered by AWS as a factor for hitting a Green in Regulation and determining the scoring scenarios based on those outcomes. For instance, the average probability for hitting the green in regulation on par-4s increases 33 percentage points when hitting from the fairway (from 40% to 74%).
Though this is the average – and varies by tournament venue and player – the overall TOUR average gives enough of a significant sample size to determine the outcome differences between hitting and not hitting the fairway.
Hovland’s Driving Accuracy and GIR
Hovland took advantage of the relationship between Driving Accuracy and hitting Greens in Regulation after slightly improving his Driving Accuracy in 2023 (from 61.9% in 2022 to 63.7% in 2023, up nearly 2 percentage points). His Greens in Regulation percentage conversely improved from 66.9% to 68.2%.
|Driving||Official Driving||307.6||308.4||-0.8 yds|
|Fairway Accuracy||63.70%||61.87%||+ 1.83 pp|
|Approach||GIR||68.18%||66.98%||+ 1.2 pp|
Season averages through TOUR Championship
Around the Green (ARG)
Hovland’s improvement in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green started in mid-season, with his rank in that statistic beginning to improve at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play in March. It was a quick improvement for Hovland, who started working with Mayo at the start of the year. The pair didn’t begin to address Hovland’s short game until February, however, but once they did, it dramatically improved.
Measuring trends, like season-to-date statistic standings above, are indicators of when a player is likely getting ready to peak. For Hovland, improvement in this area complemented his ball-striking.
Improvement in bunker game
Though nearly all areas and distances around the hole saw improvement in proximity to hole, Hovland’s bunker game stands out as one of his most improved areas. Of the ShotLink defined ARG bunker shots between 21 to 30 yards, his median proximity to the hole decreased by just over 2 feet (3.9 to 1.8 feet).
ARG Distance from Hole and resulting shot’s Proximity to Hole
Looking at all shots around the green, another way to look at his improvement from all distances is with a regression between Distance from Hole and the resulting shot’s Proximity to Hole. The chart below compares Hovland’s 2023 to both 2022 and TOUR average for both seasons.
While Hovland was once worse than average for all distances from the hole around the green in 2022, his slope decreased below TOUR average this year, showing significant improvement in longer short-game shots and bettering the TOUR average.
Hovland’s FedExCup-winning season illustrates the importance of capitalizing on strengths while improving your weaknesses. By taking advantage of his Driving Accuracy and improvement Around the Green, he created a path to put it all together and peak at the perfect time in August. He won three times in his final eight starts of the season, including the final two events. Peaking at the right time after a consistent Regular Season is a winning formula for the FedExCup.
Viktor Hovland’s best shots from the FedExCup Playoffs