Viktor Hovland undeterred by leaderboard, still taking alternate route at Riviera’s 15th hole
The PGA Tour still can’t stop Viktor Hovland.
Entering this week’s Genesis Invitational, tournament officials set up an electronic leaderboard near the tee box at Riviera’s par-4 15th hole to deter players, mainly Hovland, from playing their tee shots down the 17th fairway, which runs parallel to the right.
It hasn’t worked, at least when it comes to Hovland, who has been taking the alternate route since he played the 2017 U.S. Amateur at Riv.
“It’s just the bunker on 15 is such a severe penalty, so basically I’m taking that bunker out of play by going to the right,” Hovland said last year. “That’s about it.”
Through two rounds this week, Hovland has gone up No. 17 on each occasion. Joining him once were Taylor Montgomery, who bogeyed the hole in Round 1, and Collin Morikawa, who made par in Round 2.
Hovland parred the first day, hitting his approach from 163 yards out to 23 feet before missing the birdie putt.
“They put a screen up in the way, but it wasn’t high enough,” Hovland said. “… Had a pretty straightforward 9-iron in there and hit the green, so it was a very stress-free hole.”
But a day later, he fanned his tee shot well right and into the left rough on No. 17, which runs in the opposite direction of No. 15. On the 485-yard hole, he left himself 217 yards into the green. His approach ended up short of the bunker and he failed to get up and down to save par, carding bogey.
It’ll be interesting to see if Friday’s mishap will cause Hovland to re-think his strategy. Either way, he might not have a choice next year as PGA Tour official Steve Rintoul said the Tour is working with the club to eventually plant trees to prevent players from having an unobstructed line down the 17th fairway.
“Every effort was made to retain the integrity of the hole by working with The Riviera Country Club on a tree re-planting to fill the void,” Rintoul said in a statement to Golf.com. “While this did not happen for the 2023 tournament, and rather than installing an internal out of bounds at such an iconic venue, the decision was made to move a scoreboard into place to simply deter players from taking that route. That decision was made solely with the safety of other players, volunteers and spectators on the 17th hole in mind.
“Given that, we still have had a couple of players taking that route, and their caddies have been informed to forecaddie on the 17th hole without any issues.”