Way back in the fall of 2021, I interviewed my friend Andy Bankuti, who is an amazing golf bettor, about some insight on Viktor Hovland (Titleist Pro V1) for the 2021-22 PGA Tour season.
I was specifically looking for a dark horse, a player who was not already on everyone’s radar, and I mentioned Hovland.
“I think he’s fantastic, but he’s not a dark horse,” Andy said. “He’s like a 2-1 shot compared to a 10-1 shot like Scottie Scheffler (Titleist Pro V1). Hovland is the guy that’s supposed to be the guy, there’s not even a question, whereas with Scott Scheffler I think his game is going to get better. His determination is going to make him better.”
Andy was bang on. Scheffer did indeed have a breakthrough season, including winning the Masters, rising up to become the top player of the year in 2022. He set a record for single-season earnings on the PGA Tour.
Hovland has finally emerged as a pre-eminent player on the PGA Tour. Winning the BMW Championship and then the Tour Championship in back-to-back weeks, something which only a handful of players had done, Hovland officially announced his presence among the elite players in the world.
It couldn’t have come at a better time because of the PGA Tour’s boost in prize money and the record bonus money for the Tour Championship. In his last two wins, he has banked almost $22 million in purse money and bonus prize money. He won three tournaments in the 2022-23 season and made the cut in all 23 events in which he played. He eclipsed Scheffler’s single-season record of $14 million and has collected more than $44 million since joining the PGA Tour in 2020. He has become the top Norwegian player of all time and will provide an important presence in the Ryder Cup playing for Europe.
Scheffler, who also joined the Tour in 2020, collected in excess of $21 million this season in purse and bonus money after banking almost $25 million last year. He has banked more than $42 million since joining the PGA Tour in 2020.
His putter let him down several times this season, which was clearly a source of frustration for him. He’s basically in a slump – at least for him as compared to others who would love to have accomplished what he’s done – since last year’s Tour Championship. His game came undone on the back nine and he lost to Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5x). While he won the Phoenix Open and The Players Championship this season and had several top-five finishes, he could have done much better if his putter matched up with all the other aspects of his play. He began the TOUR Championship at 10-under par by virtue of having collected more FedEx Cup points than anyone else but finished the competition at only 11-under. Posting one-under par for 72 holes was clearly not his best effort. He tied for sixth and won $2 million, which is hardly chump change, but undoubtedly disappointing for him.
Compare that with Hovland, who began the tournament at eight-under par and finished at 27-under par, posting a seven-under par in the final round. He withstood a furious challenge from Xander Schauffele (Callaway Chrome Soft X), who fired an eight-under par to finish five back. It was basically next to impossible for anyone to topple Hovland, who began the day six shots ahead.
As an aside, another friend of mine, Dave Hilson, and I had a friendly wager of $20 for the Tour Championship. We each chose six players and the team with the most prize money won. I gave Dave the first pick and he chose Scheffler. I chose Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5x). I then had the first pick in round two and I took Jon Rahm (Callaway Chrome Soft X) and he selected Hovland. With his first pick in the third round, Dave chose Xander Schauffele (Callaway Chrome Soft X). The Xand Man used to be my favorite player, until he disappointed me too many times. I laughed at the pick. Well, what’s that they say about he who laughs, laughs best?
Rory battled back issues and Rahm continued his disappointing play in his last three tournaments after dominating the PGA Tour from January to May.
PGA MOMENT OF THE YEAR: Many people following the PGA Tour are picking the 72-foot walkoff eagle putt by Nick Taylor (Titleist Pro V1X) in the fourth playoff hole against Tommy Fleetwood (TaylorMade TP5x) in the Canadian Open as the single moment that stands out among any other.
That’s hard to disagree because it was so unexpected – at least from that distance – and also because he became the first Canadian to win the event since 1954.
But I’d also say a security guard tackling fellow Canadian golfer Adam Hadwin (Callaway Chrome Soft X) while trying to spray Taylor with champagne as the moment of the year for something that was not a shot.
NON-PGA MOMENT OF THE YEAR: I guess you could say Steph Curry recording a hole-in-one in a celebrity tournament as a moment of the year, too. His sprint to the hole made it even more memorable.
LPGA NEWS: Megan Khang (Titleist Pro V1) won the CPKC Women’s Open, rallying after giving up a three-shot lead for her first victory on the LPGA Tour. She defeated Jin Young Ko (Titleist Pro V1) in a playoff.
Khang will be part of the Team USA against Team Europe in the Solheim Cup, September 22-24 in the Malaga town of Casares in Spain.