Hovland on Berger drop: ‘It’s not like we’re trying to screw him over’

John Craven

Viktor Hovland (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Viktor Hovland has defended his decision to intervene on playing partner Daniel Berger over a drop the American was forced to take after finding the water on the 16th hole at The Players Championship on Sunday.

Having found the fairway of the last par-5 on Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass layout, Berger dunked his approach into the water by the green and assumed to take his drop much closer to the hole than where Hovland, and playing partner Joel Dahmen, deemed his ball to have crossed the hazard.


A referee soon arrived to the scene to ascertain the correct drop zone but with no TV footage to confirm, it was left to the three players to decide Berger’s fate.

“I’m gonna drop here for the sake of you guys, but you’re wrong,” an angry Berger was picked up saying on a hot-mic, with Hovland admitting that the trio had reached a compromise given radically different views on where Berger’s line had crossed the hazard.

“From my perspective, obviously I was a little further left than Daniel, in my opinion I did not think the ball started very far left of the pin,” Hovland said.

“It looked like it kind of started at the pin and then cut towards the end because the wind was also a little bit off the left.

“He obviously thought that he started it way left of the pin and then he kind of cut hard at the end, but that’s not what Joel and I saw. I’m not going to put words in Joel’s mouth, but he was closer to Daniel’s line, and we both saw the same thing, that it kind of started pretty close to the pin and then cut to the right at the end, therefore not really crossing all the way up there close to the green. We thought it was closer to the grass bunker there, just past it, and yeah, we had a little discussion about it.

“It’s not a fun conversation. Daniel’s game is great, and I have massive respect for him as a player. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to protect the field and protect all the other guys. It’s not a fun conversation, but when you strongly believe in something, you kind of have to stand your ground.”

Hovland admits it’s not the first time he’s had such an interaction on the golf course, and given he claims a compromise was reached with his Ryder Cup rival, Berger, the Norwegian clearly feels he could’ve dropped even further back than the 90-odd yards Berger left himself for his fourth shot.

In the end, Berger failed to get up and down, making bogey on the hole. Asked if he had a conversation with Berger to clear the air post-round, Hovland added:

“I mean, not really. We try to keep it professional,” he said.

“It’s not like we’re trying to dog on Daniel and trying to screw him over. It’s just, that’s what we believe, and he obviously felt strongly the other way. It’s just what it is. I’m not accusing him of anything.

“The golf ball is in the air for a couple seconds, so it’s tough to exactly pinpoint where it crossed and not. But Joel and I saw it in one way and he saw it differently.”

Hovland played his final three holes in one-over, signing off with a 69 for a seven-under tally and a top-10 finish, despite struggling hugely with his chipping around the greens. Asked if he attributes his chipping woes to technique or nerves, Hovland admitted:

“I think it’s a little bit of both,” he said. “I frankly don’t practice it enough. Then when I’m put in those situations, it’s not like — it’s such a short stroke or you have kind of time to control things when you’re chipping instead of when you’re hitting a drive, it’s just one, two, and then it just goes.

“Whereas in chipping, the little small differences become — if you hit it just behind the ball, it changes the outcome a lot.

“I think it’s a little bit of both, but I’ve had weeks where I chip it great and then I have confidence throughout the week, and I chip it awesome. But then other weeks if I haven’t hit many chip shots the whole week and then suddenly I have one that’s a little awkward, I think I have a tendency of maybe guiding it a little too much.”

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