Viktor Hovland has been on a great run of golf lately. Or, to put it in terms of another one of the young PGA Tour star’s activities, he’s been on a real “heater.”
It certainly didn’t stop on Thursday for the current Golf Digest cover boy with an opening 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. And following his first round at Bay Hill, Hovland discussed how playing poker—yes, poker—with his new swing coach, Jeff Smith, has helped his play on the course.
“Yeah, he’s helped me a lot,” said Hovland, who entered this week with three consecutive top-five finishes on the PGA Tour. “I’m happy we’re, we have been together and we’re a very good fit, we kind of think a lot of the same way. We play a lot of poker together and we like to talk poker, there’s a lot of take from poker and talk about with golf as well, because a lot of it is math and kind of stats. And I like a guy that’s versatile, that can still talk about swing mechanics, but also talk about course management and stats and all that stuff. So it’s been great so far.”
These young kids and their newfangled stats, huh?
No, but seriously, it makes sense. Playing poker is all about playing percentages and it’s becoming the same way in golf during the Strokes Gained Era. Just look at how tour pros attack Riviera’s famed par-4 10th hole now.
Hovland said he’s been working with Smith, a Golf Digest Best-in-State winner based in Indiana, since before last FedEx Cup Playoffs. Of course, they do a lot more than play poker, but since then, Hovland has added a second PGA Tour title and climbed from No. 31 in the Official World Golf Ranking to No. 13.
No word on how much he’s up—or down—at the card table, though.