Viktor Hovland explains why he’s taking a shortcut at Riviera’s 15: ‘It’s a no brainer.’

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Add this to the files of more than one way to skin a cat.

Norway’s Viktor Hovland has taken an alternate route to play the 474-yard par-4 15th hole at Riviera Country Club. Instead of a power fade to turn the corner of the doglegged fairway and avoid the fairway bunker, Hovland opted to play down the 17th hole, which runs to the right of it. He did it in Thursday’s opening round and again on Friday at the Genesis Invitational, when his ball sailed even farther right – “It was a bad shot today,” he said.

But it was by design, even if course architect George C. Thomas Jr., never envisioned a golfer bashing a tee shot more than 300 yards and playing the hole that way.

“I did that at the U.S. Amateur here in 2017. Actually, got to give my buddy (and former Oklahoma State teammate) Zach Bauchou some credit. He was the guy that first mentioned it. Yeah, I did it there and I did it once last year, I believe it was the third day and it was humming downwind. I think I hit a driver and a sand wedge in there,” Hovland said. “And there’s not too much trouble there I thought. Obviously that bunker on the left side is no good, but at the same time the bunker down 15 on the right is not good either. I don’t know, just fits my eye.”

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Genesis Invitational 2022

Genesis Invitational 2022

A ShotLink view of the way Viktor Hovland played the 15th hole at Riviera Country Club during the second round of the 2022 Genesis Invitational.

On Friday, Hovland played down the right-side on 17 despite the hole being located seven paces from the front and six paces off the right edge. His drive flew 320 yards and left him 175 yards to the hole. He found the putting surface at the two-tiered green and took two putts from 62 feet, and made par on the testy par-4, which usually plays into a prevailing wind.

When asked if it was his game plan to play the hole in this manner regardless of the flag position, Hovland said, “I think so. … It’s a no brainer.”

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He noted that he tested out his strategy during the practice rounds and he and his caddie were “trying to be as stealthy as we could.”

So far, so good. The option to play down No. 17 exists because trees that used to block that route have died in recent years. Others also tried this route last year, but that was believed to be a result of no fans on site due to the COVID pandemic. It will be interesting to see if the PGA Tour will institute internal out of bounds as a local rule in future editions of the Genesis Invitational, something done occasionally, most recently to avoid a shortcut down the left side of No. 18 at Waialae Country Club during the Sony Open of Hawaii.

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Hovland shot a bogey-free 64 Friday, and trails leader Joaquin Niemann by nine strokes at the midway point. Hovland struggled with his iron play on Thursday, but his pinpoint accuracy returned on Friday.

“Sometimes they cut and sometime they drew on Thursday,” he explained. “I’m working on trying to stay more square and make almost a cut swing. Today I trusted it. I felt like I knew how the ball was going to curve every time and when you have that feeling you can really give yourself a lot of chances.”

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