Viktor Hovland breaks new ground at the World Wide Technology Championship

The Norwegian star will bid to follow up last year’s victory when he returns to Mayakoba Resort in Mexico this week.

Viktor Hovland goes into the unknown this week.

That seems a strange statement given that the Norwegian conquered this year's venue, El Camaleon, when winning the Mexico event last December.

That was the Mayakoba Golf Classic, rebranded this year as the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba following a change in sponsorship.

Hovland's victory there was his second on the PGA Tour following victory in 2020's Puerto Rico Open while earlier this year he landed the European Tour's BMW International Open.

So what is the 'unknown' factor he faces.

Well, Hovland didn't play in the 2021 edition of the Puerto Rico Open and that means this week he will defend a pro title for the very first time in his career.

It's a situation the current World No.17 will surely face many times in the future but, for now, punters will have to guess how he might react to the extra pressures heaped on him.

Some flourish when defending for the first time. Daniel Berger, for example, made his big breakthrough at the 2016 FedEx St. Jude Classic and returned 12 months later to win it again.

Plenty of others have gone back to the scene of their big breakthrough and missed the cut.

Hovland's previous two starts at Mayakoba had resulted in missed cuts so that could sew some doubts.

And he's not quite hit his straps in the new 2021/22 season having finished only tied 44th at the Shriners Children's Open and tied 18th in the CJ Cup.

However, one intriguing element this week is that Hovland's two victories - Mayakoba and Puerto Rico - have both come on coastal courses featuring the rarely-seen Paspalum grass.

He's clearly in his comfort zone on such surfaces but will that translate into another win?

Here's what he said in Tuesday's press conference:

On defending for the first time

"Yeah, it's cool for the first time to be able to defend. Didn't get to do that at Puerto Rico last time, so happy to be here.

"This is my fourth time playing a PGA Tour event here and I also played the World Amateur here a few years back, so it's going to be my fifth time at this property, so it's kind of weird coming to a place where I almost feel like a veteran since I haven't been out here very long.

Viktor Hovland shot 20-under to win this event last year.
Viktor Hovland shot 20-under to win this event last year.

"But I love everything about this place. The golf course is great, the weather's great, it's in really good shape and the resort's amazing. It's kind of like a vacation from our bad weather in Oklahoma right now. Yeah, just get to go out and have fun."

On why his first two wins have come in relaxed settings

"You have plenty of things where you can kind of not think about golf. You go to the beach and you eat good food. There's plenty of other people to hang out with. Yeah, it's a good setup.

"I think it's also to do with the green types out here, the Paspalum grass I've seemed to putt well at. It's a bit slower usually than what we see on every other week on Tour and I think that's helped me just with where I kind of have grown up in Norway.

"We have flatter and slower greens and that just kind of sets up better for me here this week."

On the state of his game

"I feel like I've been playing well the last few months. Played really well at TPC Summerlin, but had some struggles around the greens and that carried over to Summit as well the week after.

"So I felt like I played a lot better than my results showed those two weeks, but that's kind of how this game goes. I feel like I'm putting really well and I made some strides around the greens, so yeah, if I can just kind of keep hitting the ball like I usually do, I should be able to make some birdies this week."

On his progression since winning this event last year

"I'd say I'm a bit more seasoned. I've got a bit more experience, played a few more Major championships, being part of a Ryder Cup.

"I just feel like I have a better understanding of myself and my own game and just being kind of comfortable doing what I'm doing.

"Even though I haven't maybe put myself in as many places to win tournaments since then as I maybe would have liked, but I feel like I'm definitely handling the pressure in the moment a lot better.

"I remember last year I was so nervous coming down the stretch. Now, I was still able to pull it off, but I was really nervous and I feel like now I'm handling that a lot better."

On his career so far

"To already have three worldwide victories as a pro is pretty crazy.

"I feel like I played some great golf throughout my career so far, but it's still hard to win, and you've got to make the right putts at the right time.

"Been very pleased with how I've finished off certain events. If I've had to make a putt, I've done it on the last hole to win, which has been very special.

"Hopefully I can keep doing that and maybe even win a bit more. Always trying to improve and, yeah, hopefully keep improving."

Hovland's last 50 starts

Wins: 6%

Top 5s: 22%

Top 10s: 24%

READ MORE: Spotlight on Justin Thomas at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba

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