Enjoy Hovland while you can
Updated: Jun 29
Well done Viktor Hovland on becoming the first Norwegian to win on the European Tour. The optimist in me would like to think the BMW International Open will be the first of many European Tour victories in what will hopefully be a long career for the 23 year old.
The cynic in me thinks Hovland might win more PGA Tour events than European ones, even if Hovland was quick to pay homage to the circuit he’ll represent in future Ryder Cups.
"I grew up watching mostly the European Tour," he said. "There’s a lot of guys who played this week who I grew up watching. It’s cool to be a champion of this Tour, in Germany, in a place that... it’s not in Norway, but it’s close and has some of the same feelings of being home. It’s a huge honour and finally Norway has a win on the European Tour."
European golf fans would love to see Hovland playing many regular events each season (by “regular” I mean those outside the majors and world golf championships). However, there’s a chance that won’t happen. His allegiance, like that of Jon Rahm and others, is pledged more firmly to the PGA Tour than the European Tour.
A look at this week’s Irish Open perhaps proves that. Hovland’s name is nowhere to be seen. Ditto for the Scottish Open next week. You might have thought Hovland would play one of these two events in preparation for the Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
With the threshold set ridiculously low for European Tour membership, Hovland only needs to play a handful of regular tournaments – four to be precise - along with the majors and WGCS to qualify for the European Ryder Cup team. Expect him to follow the same routine as many top European players: he'll play the bare minimum in Europe and spend most of his time on the PGA Tour.
So much for the Rolex Series providing an opportunity for Europe’s top stars to play more in Europe, the original intention behind the lucrative series.
Yes it’s early in Hovland’s career – he only turned pro in 2019 – and, yes, Covid-19 has played havoc with everyone’s schedule. It’s perhaps unfair to prejudge what he will do, but it would be surprising if he bucked the above trend and spent more time in Europe than he had to.
You can’t blame Hovland if he follows my prediction. After all, why would he need to play a lot in Europe considering the PGA Tour plays for brilliant prize funds every week? Like Rahm, he’s obviously comfortable in the United States from his days as a student at Oklahoma State. Besides, most young Europeans trying to gain a foothold on the PGA Tour – Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, etc, – are heading down the route Rahm and established European Tour stars like Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose have taken, and are intent on making the PGA Tour their home base with fleeting visits home. Who can fault them considering the huge purses on offer compared to the European circuit?
Expect Hovland to cherry pick his European Tour events for the foreseeable future, perhaps based on those that pay appearance fees. Again, why wouldn’t he?
In other words, enjoy Hovland while you can.
Woburn members excel in America
Speaking of players who feel comfortable in the United States, fellow Woburn Golf Club members Meghan MacLaren and Steve Lewton certainly looked comfortable in the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free tee over the weekend.
MacLaren won the Prasco Charity Championship, her first victory on the Symetra Tour, the feeder circuit to the LPGA. Lewton finished third on the PGA Tour equivalent, posting a 14-under aggregate in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Live and Work in Maine Open. He finished just two shots behind the winner.
Ian Poulter clearly isn’t the only Woburn member who enjoys playing in the United States.
#JustSaying: “More money. Otherwise, no difference. Birdie the same. Par the same. Bogey the same. Out of bounds the same.” Seve Ballesteros on golf in America
Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour