'You Can't Be Scared About Playing With Tiger' - Hovland In Buoyant Mood

Viktor Hovland was made up to be playing with his hero - and now he wants Major glory

Viktor Hovland Masters
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Viktor Hovland got off to a fast start on the opening day of The Masters, shooting a scintillating 65 in front of his hero, Tiger Woods, to cap off a dream day at Augusta National.

Many players have suffered in the company of the great man, but the 25-year-old Norwegian is made of strong stuff, and he clearly relished playing with the 15-time Major winner en route to his opening seven-under.

Donning the day’s most spectacular shirt that rivalled the colors on the azaleas, Hovland flew out of the traps with an eagle on the par-5 2nd, and he added three birdies before the turn.

There were just two more gains on the back nine, but no bogeys, and he was all smiles as he signed for a 65, a score that put him into the solo lead before he was joined by Jon Rahm and LIV Golf player Brooks Koepka.

"You've just got to embrace it," Hovland said of his pairing with Woods, who limped to a disappointing 74. "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.

"Obviously it's really cool to just be around him. He's been such a huge influence to the game of golf, and obviously watched him hours growing up. And to get to play with him for the first time today was very special, and especially to play this round, as well."

For the majority of the afternoon, it was Hovland and Xander Schauffele who did the entertaining as Woods struggled on the greens and with his fitness.

However, Hovland remained fully focused on the job in hand and the goal of winning his first Major title. This is his fourth appearance at The Masters and he’s already shown a liking for the course.

"It was very fun today,” he added. Got off to a nice start, obviously making eagle on number two and 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. So that was awesome."

Hovland will be hoping that his 65 will lay the foundations for another crack at a Major Championship – and he’ll be looking to draw on the experience he gained from his fourth-place finish at last year’s British Open. It could have been so much more, despite the fact he hadn’t gone into St Andrews in confident form.

"I really had not played all that great leading up to The Open," said Hovland. "And I made a lot of putts the first three rounds. I felt great, and I actually was very calm on that Sunday.

"I just didn't quite get anything going. The putts that I made earlier in the week, I just didn't make the putts. And then you let the other guys get a head start and it's just hard to catch them.

"It's just one of those days where I didn't quite have it. It wasn't like a mental error. But I feel like my skill set is a lot better right now, and I think I would have wanted to play that Sunday again, this week, for example. That would have been a lot of fun."

Michael Weston
Contributing editor

Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.