Viktor Hovland says he had nothing to do with the shocking pink and white polo shirt he wore for Thursday’s opening round of the 87th Masters.
The 25-year-old Norwegian broke 70 for the first time at Augusta National, firing a seven-under-par 65 to grab a share of the 18-hole lead with Spain’s Jon Rahm and American Brooks Koepka.
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“You know a good score is out there, but you can’t really force it,” said Hovland. “You’ve just got to let it happen and if you have some makeable putts, you’ve got to make them and then you can get into a rhythm.
“But it’s one of those things, you push too hard and it will backfire.”
World No 9 Koepka made five birdies and an eagle at the par-five 2nd on a 25-foot putt to dazzle the crowd.
“Got off to a nice start,” Hovland said. “Just kept hitting great shots on the front nine and made some putts, and before I knew it, somehow I was six under through 11 and just kind of coast in to 65.
“So that was awesome.”
As exciting as his performance was, it paled in comparison to his shirt, an epic mix of huge pink and white azaleas with green trim, a nod to the beautiful flowers on display across Augusta National.
It looked part-Picasso, part paint spill. And it was totally selected by Hovland’s clothing sponsor, the same one who dressed him in pink pants last year.
“I had nothing to do with it. I just wear what they tell me to wear,” Hovland said.
“It’s definitely a little bit out there, but I think I’d rather take these than the pink pants I had last year, so we’re making progress.”
Hovland kept his cool while playing alongside 15-time Major champion Tiger Woods and Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele, fans cheering on Woods as he struggled to walk across the course due to leg injuries from a 2021 car crash.
It was a far cry from how Hovland reacted when he learned he would play alongside Woods, who hosted the Hero World Challenge event in the Bahamas that Hovland won in 2021 and 2022.
“Heart rate started going up,” said Hovland. “After that, I calmed myself down and thought, ‘This is going to be very exciting.’ You’ve just got to embrace it. You can’t be scared or anything like that.
“If you want to win this tournament, you can’t be scared about playing with Tiger. So you’ve just got to overcome things like that.”
Hovland is coming off his best Major finish after sharing fourth at last year’s Open. He has won three PGA Tour titles, the most recent in 2020 and 2021 at Mayakoba, and two DP World Tour titles, the most recent last year at Dubai.
Hovland struggled early this year but after sharing 20th at Riviera, he was 10th at Bay Hill and shared third at The Players Championship last month.
“At Bay Hill, I started to feel like the pieces were coming along,” he said. “The back nine at Riviera was very big for me, even though it was a 20th finish.
“It wasn’t something to jump too high in the air about, but that back nine, I felt like something clicked, and ever since then, I’ve just felt better and better about my game.”
© Agence France-Presse