Viktor Hovland’s first European Tour victory helps herald a glamorous spell on the circuit, one that should provide an ideal build-up to next month’s keenly anticipated Open Championship at Sandwich.
Hovland became the first Norwegian to win on the tour with his two-stroke triumph over Martin Kaymer at the BMW International Open in Munich last Sunday. Many more winners’ cheques will surely follow for the 23-year-old from Oslo.
He already has two wins on the US tour, but this was still an important breakthrough, if not quite as spectacular as Jon Rahm’s US Open conquest of the previous week.
It was a significant and reassuring result for the coming generation of European golfers which has the Norwegian and Spaniard at its vanguard. “I grew up watching mostly the European Tour,” Hovland said after his victory.
“It’s not in Norway, but it’s close and has some of the same feelings of being home,” added the American-based youngster. “It’s a huge honour and finally Norway has a win on the European Tour.”
With the Ryder Cup looming large, European skipper Padraig Harrington will be thrilled at Hovland’s continued excellence. This win was one of seven top-six finishes so far this year for a player who spends most of his time on the PGA Tour.
That is, of course, the preeminent circuit in world golf and the European Tour lives largely in its considerable shadow. However this is the time of year when play on this side of the pond emerges into the limelight.
Having been denied our summer of sport last year by the Covid pandemic, the coming weeks are long awaited by golf fans in the UK and Ireland. Galleries will be hoping European stars can harness the momentum started by Rahm and Hovland.
Rory McIlroy showed promising signs of progress with last month’s victory at Quail Hollow and then finishing in a share of seventh place at the recent US Open. Now the 32-year-old Ulsterman is the headline act at this week’s Irish Open and then the Scottish Open at Renaissance Club in East Lothian.
Both events boast fitting fields. At Mount Juliet in County Kilkenny McIlroy is joined by Open champion Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood, the Englishman who was runner up to to the burly Irishman at Royal Portrush in 2019.
The line-up also includes Germany’s Kaymer, whose closing 64 in Germany offered credence to his claim that he remains capable of playing his way into Europe’s Ryder Cup team, to face the Americans at Whistling Straits, for the fifth time this September.
At the moment the two-time major champion, who holed the putt that retained the Ryder Cup in 2012’s ‘Miracle at Medinah’ is slated to be a vice-captain, but a lot might change during a huge few weeks for the European game.
Rahm will be in the field for next week’s Scottish Open along with American stars such as Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele.
The bubble widens further the following week with all of the world’s best due to congregate at Royal St George’s for the first Open in two years. Rarely can a championship have been more eagerly anticipated with 32,000 fans per day allowed on the links.
This is also when European galleries will next see the likeable Hovland, who matched the accuracy of his golf when he summed up the enticing prospects of the the coming weeks.
“It’s The Open, Olympics, Ryder Cup,” he smiled. “There’s so much golf to look forward to and I’m just going to have a blast.”