KAPALUA, Hawaii – Despite being in idyllic Maui, it was getting tough for Viktor Hovland to sport his trademark smile.
The Norwegian superstar arrived in Hawaii on Dec. 29 to get in a week of prep work for the Sentry Tournament of Champions after spending the holidays in his home country of Norway. Alas, his golf clubs failed to join him.
Flying high after wins in his last two starts — the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba and the Hero World Challenge — Hovland had put away his clubs in Oslo to reconnect with family and friends over Christmas. He was content a week in Maui would be sufficient to get his swing back into a groove.
But in the end, the World No. 7 had just 24 hours to prepare after his trusty Ping sticks failed to follow him on a travel adventure halfway around the world. Hovland flew from Oslo through Paris and on to Seattle, where he was left waiting for his bag for half an hour. Then he was told it had inadvertently been sent off course.
“My duffel bag and my mom’s duffel bag was there, but we waited 30 minutes for my golf bag and it didn’t show up,” Hovland said. “I asked someone and they said they sent it through Salt Lake City, apparently.”
The delay meant a missed connection to Maui, which forced him onto another airline and complicated the search.
“It was a big headache,” Hovland added. “But we got the clothes the next day and then it seemed the golf bag was just somehow sitting in Seattle for five days straight.
“They didn’t really know where it was, so I was concerned they lost it initially. And then after a couple of days, they said they physically had it. That got me more frustrated. If you can see the bag, it shouldn’t be that hard to put it on the flight.”
That left the 24-year-old doing what most do in Maui. Vacationing.
“I really didn’t do anything. I worked out, ate, went to the beach, … just had a vacation essentially,” he said. “I really haven’t touched a club since the (the Hero) so I was planning on getting here to practice the whole last week and get back into it. Obviously, the preparations haven’t been ideal this time around.”
Hovland resorted to using the clubs of his caddie Shay Knight for a little bit of practice.
“He has Ping clubs, so that was good. But obviously different specs and different clubs so it wasn’t ideal but at least when you haven’t hit balls, the main thing is to just kind of get a feel for it.”
Hovland’s drama wasn’t over. Replacement irons overnighted by Ping from Arizona got delayed in Honolulu and didn’t beat his regular bag, which finally arrived late Tuesday night. The bag was roughed up and his back-up driver had been snapped. At least he hadn’t planned to use it.
In fact, he is still using a driver that once belonged to fellow TOUR player James Hahn. Hovland borrowed the club in Mayakoba after Danny Lee accidently broke Hovland’s driver while testing it out during a speed drill. Hovland went on to win that week and subsequently still has it.
With expectations now lowered for this week, will Hovland struggle to show his trademark smile or will another equipment fiasco be a good omen?
“I was pretty frustrated there a couple of times,” he admitted. “But it’s not ideal that I have to spend these next couple of days to try to get back into things and find my swing.
“It’s a little different case because I was playing pretty good and then testing James’ driver, it was really good. I’m still playing that driver … It’s a little different this week, but I’m getting better every day.”