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Viktor Hovland: From FedExCup glory to PGA Tour struggles - what's gone wrong for Ryder Cup star in 2024?

Viktor Hovland won the PGA Tour's FedExCup and was closing in on the world No 1 ranking in 2023, along with helping Europe claim Ryder Cup glory and earning $38m in prize money, but has struggled so far this year; watch The Masters live on Sky Sports

What's gone wrong for Viktor Hovland in 2024

There is little which encapsulates the frustration of golf more than the difference between Viktor Hovland's end to the 2023 PGA Tour season and his start to 2024.

The Norwegian seemed to have the world at his feet as he capped the Tour year with a maiden FedExCup triumph, having also won the Memorial Tournament and the BMW Championship, and went on to help Europe reclaim the Ryder Cup by winning a joint-second-highest 3.5 points from his matches in Rome - with only Rory McIlroy earning more.

Yet the now-world No 6 has failed to carry those performances over to 2024, with his showing at last month's Players Championship, where he eventually finished tied for 62nd on one under for the tournament after a closing round of 74, underlining the struggles he has faced prior to teeing up at Augusta National for The Masters this week.

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Viktor Hovland claims that despite his success within the last year, he still has plenty of things to figure out with his golf swing which has prompted him to search for a new coach

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Nevertheless, he is adamant those early-season woes after embarking on making major changes to his game during the winter have only served to fire him up for The Masters, where he held the co-lead after the first round in 2023.

"If I play badly, that almost motivates you more than when I'm playing good," Hovland said. "When I'm playing good it's like 'okay, I know what I'm doing, I can take tomorrow off' or 'I know that I'm playing good, I can just chill for a little bit' or whatever.

"You become more complacent, but I would say the moment I play bad or make a couple of mistakes, that motivates me more to come back better and that's definitely how I've felt in the last couple of months.

"The frustrating part is when you're trying to figure things out and you don't see the progress, and you don't know if this is the right road ahead, and that's when you have to think more about the process rather than just shutting that off and committing to it."

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Hovland hit a shocker of a bunker shot which cleared the green completely in the third round of The Sentry in Hawaii

A cursory look at the 26-year-old's results for the year so far tells its own story. After scoring nine top-10 finishes last year, including tying for seventh at The Masters, and tying for second at the PGA Championship, Hovland has yet to finish higher than 19th in 2024.

His performance at TPC Sawgrass during The Players was way below his showing at the corresponding event in 2023 when he tied for third, and that 19th place at the Genesis Invitational is the only tournament so far where he has bettered his finish in it last year.

Sky Sports Golf analyst Tim Barter, who coached former major winners Seve Ballesteros and Darren Clarke, cited the ongoing process of Hovland rebuilding his swing under the tutelage of former PGA Tour player Grant Waite, having split with previous coach Joe Mayo, as a big reason behind his dip.

"He gave a lot of credit to his coach, Joe Mayo, through the season for getting him to those new heights, particularly improving his short game which used to be a weakness and became a strength," Barter told Sky Sports.

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During The Players, Sky Sports Golf's Tim Barter examined why FedExCup champion Hovland has struggled to continue last year's sensational form

"Somewhat surprisingly, in between the two seasons, we heard he'd fired Joe Mayo and gone to work with Grant Waite...and he's now in a transition between the swing Mayo built and the swing Grant Waite is trying to help him achieve.

"The stats reflect he's really struggling at the moment."

Beyond the headline results, a deeper dive into the numbers reveals just how alarming Hovland's drop-off has been in several areas of his game.

Prior to last week's Valero Texas Open, his strokes gained total had dipped from the eighth-best on the PGA Tour of 1.648 to 119th on -0.177 following The Players, while his scoring average slumped from a fourth highest of 69.123 per round to 72.098 and ranked 160th.

Viktor Hovland 2023 vs 2024 on the PGA Tour*

Statistic 2023 (PGA Tour rank) 2024 (PGA Tour rank)
Strokes gained total 1.648 (8th) -0.177 (119th)
Total driving 84 (5th) 143 (37th)
Driving accuracy % 63.70 (40th) 58.15 (86th)
Birdie average 4.41 (4th) 4.26 (45th)
Scoring average 69.123 (4th) 72.098 (160th)
Greens in regulation % 68.18 (68th) 66.96 (84th)
Scrambling % 62.10 (48th) 56.64 (136th)
*Stats prior to Valero Texas Open

In terms of specific parts of his game, Hovland's performances off the tee saw him drop from fifth to 37th in total driving and 40th to 86th in driving accuracy since The Players.

His iron play has suffered too, dropping from 10th to 105th in terms of strokes gained approach, and tied 10th to tied 69th for proximity to the hole. On the green, his one-putt percentage has gone down from 42.11 (22nd) to 40.94 (56th). Most damningly, he entered April 181st out of 181 qualifying PGA Tour players in strokes gained around the green.

Given Hovland's struggles, it begs the question: why make such a significant change after a year which saw him crowned as PGA Tour champion, earn around $38m in prize money and be in contention for glory in majors, not to mention have a realistic shot of cracking the hegemony of Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and LIV Golf defector Jon Rahm in the Official World Golf Ranking top three?

"In Viktor's case, you have to imagine 'Okay, I'm world No 4 [ahead of The Players] and I want to be world No 1'," Barter said. "Also, he wants to win major championships which he hasn't done yet and maybe he felt he didn't have the tools to do so, so he was prepared to take the risk and reinvent his golf swing.

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Highlights from the fourth round of the 2023 PGA Tour Championship at the East Lake Golf Course as Hovland claimed the FedEx Cup for the first time

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"It was an unorthodox swing, but, boy, was it effective last year. He's working away to try to make it more orthodox to become an even better player and go on to become the multiple major champion he wants to be.

"It's a risk and whether he achieves it in the long run we'll have to wait to see. Let's hope so, because right now he's in a bad place as far as his golf swing is concerned."

Hovland has not been seen on a golf course in competitive action since The Players, skipping the following three tournaments on the PGA Tour, and spent part of Monday's practice session ahead of his fifth Masters appearance working with California-based swing guru Dana Dahlquist.

He remains stoic about his struggles in 2024 and is determined to keep open-minded about the best way ahead for him as he seeks a solution which will allow him to become the player he wants to be.

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Hovland was in inspired form in his Ryder Cup singles match against Collin Morikawa, winning 4&3 as Europe edged closer to regaining the trophy in Rome

"I'm still looking for some opinions out there, but I feel like I'm on a good track right now and we'll see where that takes us," Hovland said. "Sometimes, the game of golf, you try to do the same every day but things aren't the same every day when you go to the golf course.

"I took a huge break last year and when I came back everything was different. I had to find my way back to where I think I'm going to play my best golf.

"Even at the end of last year, I was playing great but I got a lot out of my game and it didn't necessarily feel sustainable - but it's not like consciously I went in and said 'hey, we're going to change everything up'.

"I'm always trying to learn, but I felt like I'd got to what the pinnacle of my golf swing was able to do last year. Just when I keep looking back, my swings from 2020 and 2021, I had more control of the golf ball, in my opinion."

When is The Masters on Sky Sports?

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Watch all the action from the Masters LIVE only on Sky Sports, starting on April 11th on Sky Sports Golf

Wall-to-wall coverage from the tournament begins at 2pm over the first two rounds on Thursday April 11 and Friday April 12, with Featured Group action and regular updates from around the course available to enjoy on Sky Sports Golf until the global broadcast window begins at 8pm.

There will be lots of extra action throughout all four days via the red button on Sky Sports Golf, along with Sky Q and Sky Glass, providing plenty of bonus feeds and allowing you to follow players' progress through various parts of Augusta's famous layout.

Sky Sports Golf will show extended build-up content over the weekend and occasional live updates from the course before the global broadcast window starts at 8pm for the third round and 7pm for the final day, with early action available throughout via the red button.

Who will win The Masters? Watch live from April 11-14 exclusively on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins with Featured Groups on Thursday April 11 from 2pm on Sky Sports Golf. Stream the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, majors and more with NOW.

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