PGA contender Hovland excited to play in Tokyo Olympics

Kiawah Island (United States) (AFP) –


Norway's Viktor Hovland is looking forward to golfing in the Tokyo Olympics and the way he's playing, he might just be going to Japan as a major champion.

The 23-year-old from Oslo fired a three-under par 69 to share the early lead in Thursday's opening round of the PGA Championship at windy Kiawah Island.

World number 11 Hovland, who fired four birdies against a lone bogey Thursday, won't be saying no when the chance comes to play for Olympic gold.

"We had a couple of Norwegian players play in 2016 and they certainly loved the experience," Hovland said.

"Obviously, it's the Olympics, and if you have a chance to compete, I certainly would not decline."

Other players have criticized the severe covid-19 restrictions that will be in place in Japan for the Games, such as no seeing other events and isolated housing.

"It's unfortunate the circumstances that we're dealing with," Hovland said. "It looks like it's going to be pretty strict. There's not a whole lot of fun stuff to do, if you will, outside of the golf course. So that's going to be a little downer.

"But just to be able to compete as an Olympian is a huge honor and hopefully I can represent Norway well."

After Hideki Matsuyama was hailed in Japan for becoming his nation's first male major winner, Hovland was asked what he thought the reaction in Norway might be if he won the PGA.

"It's hard to say. Golf doesn't really have a very rich tradition back home," Hovland said.

"We have a very rich Olympic tradition and now with golf being an Olympic sport, I think it would be great for people back home to just get into the sport.

"I really have no idea. We'll have to get there first."

Hovland got some praise back home for his two US PGA victories last year at the Puerto Rico Open and the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico.

"They were pretty pumped, the people that were watching, but I don't know how much, like, national broadcast it got," Hovland said. "I haven't been much back home, so it's kind of hard for me to answer."

One special Norwegian watching Hovland was his father, who came over to see his son play at the Masters and spend five weeks before returning home earlier this month.

"My mom still hasn't come over to watch me play as a pro, due to the pandemic," Hovland said.

"It was great having my dad. We haven't spent a whole lot of time together ever since I started college.

"It was fun to do those road trips with him and have him watch me play and just talk about things we haven't talked about before."

Hovland shared third at Innisbrook and Quail Hollow before his dad departed, boosting his confidence heading into Kiawah Island.

"It was really good the last couple of tournaments that I was able to finish third without really feeling that all parts of my game were that great," Hovland said.

"I would have spurts and moments where I hit it really good, and then I would hit some bad shots and kind of give back the momentum that I had, whereas now I really feel like there's not really a hole in my game.

"It doesn't mean I'm going to play great, but I'm at least confident over every single shot that I'm hitting, which is a big deal.

"Even though I played two good tournaments, I feel a lot better for this week."