Detroit — It’s been a heck of a few weeks for Viktor Hovland.
The 2018 U.S. Amateur champion had capped off an All-American season at Oklahoma State when he was a big early story at the U.S. Open two weeks ago at Pebble Beach. Gary Woodland eventually outpaced Brooks Koepka to win, but Hovland — playing his final event as an amateur — was among the early leaders before eventually finishing in a tie for 12th.
Last week at the Travelers Championship, Hovland made his debut as a professional on the PGA Tour, finishing in a tie for 54th.
A sponsor’s exemption this week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic was next, an opportunity the native of Norway took advantage of. Hovland fired an 8-under 64 on Sunday — tied for best round of the day with Billy Horschel — to finish at 15-under, tied for 13th and 10 shots behind winner Nate Lashley.
“I didn't have a very good day yesterday,” Hovland said of his third-round 70, “but I was able to finish birdie-birdie and I know, ‘OK, if I shoot a low one tomorrow, I can really jump up the leaderboard.’ To do it feels really cool.”
Hovland and fellow rookies Matthew Wolff and Justin Suh have been gaining the most attention as the new young talent on Tour. All three have recently turned pro, though Hovland was the only one of the three to make the cut this week.
Throughout the week at Detroit Golf Club, Hovland was amazed by the following he had.
“Yeah, I definitely heard a lot of people that wanted me to do well,” Hovland said. “That's really cool. I mean, I'm just a 21-year-old from Norway and you've got Americans cheering on me. It's still a little crazy for me to think about, but I really appreciate it.”
There’s no slowing down for Hovland from here. He’s now played three straight weeks and will head to Minnesota next week for the 3M Open as he chases his Tour card for next season.
A win would accomplish that, but short of a victory, Hovland will be attempting to amass as many FedEx Cup points as he can through sponsors’ exemptions. Gather enough and he could get straight into the Korn Ferry Tour finals where the top 25 players from the three-event finals earn PGA Tour cards for next season.
In the meantime, Hovland is doing his best to pace himself.
“Certainly this is my third week in a row now and it's definitely physical because you kind of have to find a balance of, OK, you want to practice and improve and get better, but at the same time you want to be rested up for the next day,” he said. “So it's trying to find that balance. Obviously, you're thinking about making birdies for the next day and how high I can climb on the leaderboard and all that, so it's a little bit of both (mental and physical).”
For Joey Garber’s next tournament, later this week at the 3M Open in suburban Minneapolis, things are going to be, let’s just say, different.
“Yeah, it’s not like this for me,” Garber said, smiling. “I really relish this week and tried to enjoy it. I’m very thankful to everyone who came out. Hopefully I’ll be back here next year.”
Garber, the PGA Tour rookie from Petoskey, finished tied for 29th in front of scores of family and friends. He became an intriguing follow, along with Jackson’s Brian Stuard, an Oakland alumnus, who finished tied for fifth. Both had big crowds, and both got big roars on the 18th, when Garber made a tough 5-foot putt and Stuard, later, made a putt for birdie.
Garber enjoyed the week, which included throwing out the first pitch at Wednesday’s Tigers game. He also admitted it was exhausting.
“I’m gonna get some rest,” he said. “It’s been a really fun week, but it’s been a draining week for me. I’m looking forward to getting some rest, and then keep doing what I’m doing.
“I’m excited about what I did this week as far as ball-striking, it just never came together for me, all facets of the game never came together for me in one day.”
As for Stuard, the longtime PGA Tour pro, he had the same amount of fun this week, maybe more, given his crowd was bigger. He got 450 ticket requests this week, some coming in as late as Thursday and Friday, when he already was playing. Asked if he wants the ticket requests in earlier next year, he just smiled and said, “Nah.”
Petoskey's Joey Garber shot a final-round 69 and finished tied for 29th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He spoke with The News on Sunday. Tony Paul, The Detroit News
Golf fans know the name Max Homa.
He earned his first PGA Tour victory this season at the Wells Fargo Championship and shot 10-under this week to tie for 42nd at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
But apparently, not everyone is up on the current crop of golf talent.
“I’m sitting next to a guy at the bar who just asked the bartender if she’s seen any of the famous golfers in here,” Homa posted Sunday evening on Twitter. “She said no. I’ll take “F list Celebrities” for $1000, Alex.”