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June 10, 2019

Viktor Hovland

Pebble Beach, California

MIKE TROSTEL: It's my pleasure to welcome Viktor Hovland here in the Media Center. Viktor is the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, playing in his first U.S. Open. Viktor, after your win last year here at Pebble Beach, you were interviewed and said everything seems like a little bit of a blur right now. You've had almost a year to digest it. Can you put into perspective what that win means to you?

VIKTOR HOVLAND: I don't know if I truly know yet, because I don't know kind of where the story is leading to. So it's hard to really say what that week meant. But obviously it's given me this opportunity and a lot of other opportunities that I felt like I've kind of gotten a lot out of it. I've certainly learned a lot and given myself a lot of opportunities that are going to rise in the future. So it's been a very meaningful week to me.

MIKE TROSTEL: You said this is your first trip back to Pebble Beach since the U.S. Amateur victory. You played a practice round today. What were a couple of things that you noticed that were different this week than from last August?

VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah, definitely generally the rough is a lot thicker than it was last year, and a lot of the fairways are narrower. So, for example, on 4, the fairway is right of that bunker; that used to be in the middle of the fairway. And, for example, on 11, that one is basically cut in half. And there's one other one. For example, 8 is moved all the way over on the right side, where you used to have the world to the left.

But as of right now, the greens are pretty soft and on the slower side. At the Am they were fairly firm and fast. But I'm assuming they're going to become that way later in the week. So not too worried about that.

Q. More along those lines, how about things like the rough, and also can you take anything from that experience and bring it into this, or does this feel like a completely different world?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I mean, a lot of things are different. Obviously the atmosphere and the tournament is different. But it's still the same course and you still have somewhat of the same lines off of the tees. The greens still do the same way, they still break the same ways. And I think just a couple of things here and there. Oh, yeah, I missed it in the left bunker, but that wasn't too bad in, for example, that spot that you kind of learn.

But it's still -- it's not a huge advantage that I played the U.S. Amateur last year here. You still -- everyone sees where the fairways are and where the greens are, and you've just got to hit the shots.

Q. I was just wondering what do you work on in your swing, both in sort of the off weeks when you have time to practice and really grind and also closer to a tournament like this when you're really in sort of prep mode? What are the things you're working on?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: That kind of varies a lot. I've -- in the past, I've liked to do a lot of technical stuff. Like that's even during a tournament week and the week right before. Every time I'm on the range, I kind of just work on my swing. But then when I get to the course, I'm always trying to score. I haven't really done much of that this week or prior. Like the last couple of months I've just -- we had so many tournaments to focus on that I really just have been playing golf.

So it's been a little different. But there's good and bad sides to both. But it's been working well for me the last period of years, so I haven't really tried to change it.

Q. Did you give any thought to playing, staying amateur and playing at Portrush?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I did, yeah. I just -- one of my biggest goals is to play the PGA TOUR, and I thought the biggest or the best possible way or the way to do that for me with the best chances was to turn pro after this week and do that way. I can still qualify to The Open, but obviously I'm going to make it a little harder for myself, but hopefully I'll be playing -- that's not going to be the only chance I have to play the British Open. Yeah, it's a good problem to have in a way. But you've just got to make those decisions sometimes.

Q. Have you reached out to guys like Rickie and some others about what lies ahead of you starting next Thursday?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I mean, a little bit. The guys have been asking me what my plans are. And obviously I plan a few PGA TOUR tournaments after this week. And there's no really secret. You've just got to play good golf. Go about your business. Get a good routine and strategy to the course and just got to play good golf. So there's really not much to say.

Q. (Off microphone.)
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I haven't gotten there, no. I'm pretty laid back. I'm thinking about the U.S. Open right now, and when I get to Connecticut next week, I'll be, okay, am I even in the U.S., and then we'll figure that stuff out.

Q. Who is caddying for you this week?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Coach Bratton is on the bag.

Q. Again?

Q. What did he do for you in the Amateur? What was it like and what was important about having him on the bag, and what was his role in your win?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Obviously he's the coach at Oklahoma State, and he sees me play golf every day. So he knows how far I hit it, my tendencies. So obviously it's good to have someone on the bag like that because you can talk about the same things. You see the same things.

But I think most of all he's played the Tour for one year, and his personality matches very good with mine. And I'm just very comfortable around him, whether that is on the course or off the course. I feel kind of safe and comfortable. And I think that was huge for me last year at the Am.

Q. What does the rest of your summer look like?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: So I turn pro after this week, and I've got four weeks in a row on the PGA TOUR and then a couple of weeks off and then finish off at the Wyndham.

Q. And then unrelated, but how do you think you're a better player than you were ten months ago?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: That's a good question. I'd say I had a couple of shots that I would like to have now that I had ten months ago that I don't really feel like I have now. But I feel like I'm a way better just golfer overall. I'm able to get the ball around. I know, okay, if my game is not where I want to be, I can still shoot a good score. And just more knowledge about the game pretty much. It's kind of hard to quantify. But, yeah.

Q. (No microphone.)
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I would say I was able at certain times -- especially, for example, with a 3-wood, I was able to hit kind of high draws. Like if -- like I could hit -- I didn't spin it that much. Now it's kind of with a 3-wood I'm just hitting low, kind of spinny cuts to keep it in the fairway. But if I really wanted to send one high into a par 5 or something, I could really do that. Kind of just a high knuckle ball draw that would go maybe 20 yards further than it would normally go.

And I've been kind of starting to draw it more with the irons. I was normally just cutting everything with the irons. So that's been a little bit of a change. So just a couple of shots that I don't really have anymore. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. But it is what it is.

Q. How did you lose them? Where did that go?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I have no clue. I guess it's just golf. You do the same thing and then suddenly, I don't know, you take a week off and then you come back and then the same feel is producing something differently. Okay, well, what just happened? But that's just the game of golf and you've got to be really disciplined to stay focused on working on the same things and not falling too far apart from where you need to go.

Q. I wanted to ask you about someone else, apologies for that, but can you describe what makes Wolffy so special? And can you also talk to how he handled the pressure of being the guy all year?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Well, I mean, obviously he has a funky swing, has a big personality. That's kind of the first two things that stand out. But he's a very good player. Hits it really far and keeps it straight, which is almost half the battle at this day and age. But obviously he had a lot of pressure, but when you're good and when you're playing good golf, there's really not much to deal with. When you talk about mental strength and all that, if you see the fairway and you bomb it 330 down the middle, there's -- yeah, you don't have to think much, you just kind of see it, react and do.

Q. Have you picked your caddie for next week? And if so, was there a high demand for you?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I didn't get a lot of caddies asking me directly, but it mostly went through Coach. I had a couple of good alternatives that I thought was pretty cool that caddies would want to caddie for me, take a chance on me. I thought that was really cool.

And Shane Knight is going to be my caddie throughout this summer, hopefully that goes -- love Aussies.

Q. Second major, low Am at the Masters, coming into here, just talk about what your expectations are for this tournament.
VIKTOR HOVLAND: I don't really -- I've been asked that a lot, actually. But I don't really have an answer for it. Obviously this is a big event, and playing the Masters was a lot of fun, and I'd like to this week and sometime down the road be in contention to win one. That would be a dream come true.

But I'm just trying to work on kind of the things in my game that I think that I need to improve. And as long as I keep doing that and seeing improvements, that's all I need to do to kind of make me feel happy with everything. Then if that leads to being in contention or 40th place or missing the cut, it is what it is. It's a process. Just trying to get better.

Q. There's bound to be some theater out there with the pairing. Talk about playing with Brooks and Francesco?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: It will be fun. I got to play nine holes at the Masters -- or in the practice round at Augusta with Brooks. So I was very impressed with his game. And obviously what he's done recently is pretty amazing. So I think that was really cool to play with him that nine holes. That will probably make it a little easier for me going into the tournament.

I've never met Francesco before, but from what he looks like on TV, he's like a machine, and has obviously played unreal golf the last 12 months, if not longer. So it will be really cool to play with them, and hopefully I can bring some birdies out.

Q. The new TOUR event in Minnesota, three weeks off, gave you an exemption, how hard did they recruit you, and did other tournaments recruit you hoping do you think to build the relationship with a guy that they're hoping might be one of the next big things in golf?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Well, I mean, I just kind of reached out and called to see if they would like to have -- receive me in that tournament, have a spot for me. And got back to me not too long ago that they would like to do so.

I don't really know -- they didn't really give an expression of them being -- begging for me to come play, but they seemed happy about me coming over there to play. So I guess -- yeah, I don't know what to say.

Q. From your big win here last year and now obviously this is your first batch of majors, what does this course or area mean for you so far in your career?
VIKTOR HOVLAND: Yeah, it's obviously a special place for me as I've had my biggest win in my career at this place. But, yeah, I mean, it's really cool to walk down some of the fairways and some of the greens to kind of reminisce and think about the good times that I had last year. It's a new week, and I just try to kind of reset a little bit and just play my game.

MIKE TROSTEL: Viktor Hovland, thanks very much. Good luck this week.


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