2023 was the year that Viktor Hovland really came of age, challenging down the stretch of a major championship for the first time, winning three events including the Memorial and BMW Championship, playing a starring role in Europe’s Ryder Cup win, and taking the biggest prize in golf when winning the Tour Championship and accompanying FedEx Cup.
But despite winning more than $33 million, he had no idea of what his actual on-course earnings amounted to.
“I knew FedExCup was 18 million,” he admitted prior to the DP World Tour Championship, “but I really didn’t have an idea how much I made this year, and yeah, it’s cool. It’s nice to have. I don’t mind it. But when I’m sitting here and especially after the Ryder Cup and I’m just looking over the year, it’s the moments that we had in Rome, that was incredible, and then just looking back to, hey, I won three times this year, big-time events.
“I’m really proud of the way I won those events. I don’t feel like I would have been capable of winning those events earlier in the year. I feel like I’ve taken a big step to be able to win those events.
“I’m thinking back to that stretch as, man, I got a lot better this year and I was able to achieve some things that I wouldn’t probably have done before. That’s kind of how I’m sitting here and thinking about that. But I would say the money is nice.”
But as memorable as the Tour Championship win was, it will be the Ryder Cup that lives longest in his memory and he paid special tribute to the captaincy role played by Luke Donald.
“Ryder Cup was awesome,” Hovland said. “Obviously winning The Tour Championship was more important for my career but the memories from Rome, I’m going to remember those moments for a lot longer and those memories are a lot stronger than Tour Championship. Everything was just perfect for our perspective that week.
“Luke did a great job. Everything was just so prepared, and when we got to that week, it was smooth. We all knew what we were going to do. We had a plan, and we just trusted the process and it was — yeah, I think even from the people that watched and from the American side that I’ve talked to when I was in the States, they all thought it was a great Ryder Cup regardless of the results and rooting for us. It was just a great event, and to share it with all the people that were a part of it, it doesn’t get any better.”
Like Rory McIlroy who was confirmed as the Race to Dubai winner after Adrian Meronk and Ryan Fox failed to post a podium finish at last week’s Nedbank Challenge, Hovland hasn’t hit a competitive shot in six weeks. Though he admits that he may be a little rusty, he feels that the extended break was necessary and still feels capable of putting up some low numbers and has prior success in Dubai to draw on.
“Yeah, six weeks, it feels like a long time,” he admitted. “You know, you need those breaks to recharge because it’s hopefully a long career. So you’ve got to — you can’t play every single event that’s out there but I do feel like my game is good enough to step up and play as well as I did before the break.
“You know, it’s going to be maybe a little bit rusty but I still have the mindset and I think just this year with how much I’ve improved and the tools that I have, I feel like I can still shoot pretty nice scores not having my best stuff. If I hit a couple bad shots, yeah, I might make a bogey or two, but I’m not going to let that ruin the round or the tournament.
“I put so much pressure on myself to play perfect golf because I felt like I had to play perfect golf to win tournaments, but I don’t believe that I have to do that anymore. It’s almost like, yes, there’s more expectations because I know what I’m capable of doing but at the same time, if I don’t play to that level, I’m not going to freak out, either. There’s a sense of calmness.”