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Viktor Hovland returns having reconnected with Joe Mayo

2024 PGA Championship

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Golf is such a roller coaster ride that the game even has a name for the ups and downs. It’s called getting up and down. Not exactly original, but it perfectly encapsulates the highs and lows of what may be the most mentally maddening sport on earth.

To get up and down is to make amends after messing up. You miss the green in regulation but follow with a chip and putt to make par or limit further damage. Failure followed by success. Getting up and down feels good, which is both an emotional contradiction. It should be called down and up.

But that’s golf. What’s up is down and what’s down is up. Or to put a face on it: Viktor Hovland.

Hovland was up last season. Way up. The 26-year-old Norwegian made the biggest splash of his young career by winning the Memorial Tournament in June, earning a handshake from event host Jack Nicklaus and a $3.5 million winner’s check for his first victory on U.S. soil.

Twelve weeks later, Hovland’s season crescendoed with a FedEx Playoff win at the BMW Championship followed by victory at the Tour Championship, which filled his pockets with $18 million in bonus money for winning the FedEx Cup title.

Then came the down. As it always does. Even for Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

2024 PGA Championship

Viktor Hovland prepares to tee off on the 12th hole during the first round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club. (Photo: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite his stellar achievements, Hovland was not completely satisfied with the process that led to his success. He was not content simply to win tournaments. He wanted to understand why his golf ball was not going where he aimed it.

“I wasn’t quite as comfortable hitting the cut shots I normally hit, and actually ended up hitting a lot of draws, even when I won the FedEx Cup,” he said. “I’m standing over the ball and feeling a cut but the ball draws. You don’t get the most confidence from that.”

Pleased with the tournament results but frustrated with his swing, which he contends was more reliable in 2021, Hovland parted company with his swing coach, Joe Mayo, after winning the FedEx Cup. The move backfired, as Hovland went into a performance dive that lasted most of this season, prompting him to consider not even entering the PGA Championship, played three weeks ago at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville.

Good thing he reconsidered, because he finished third. Not coincidentally, he had re-connected with Mayo the week before the PGA.

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