/The First Cut: Viktor Hovland snaps Puerto Rico Open curse, Christiaan Bezuidenhout goes back-to-back
The First Cut: Viktor Hovland snaps Puerto Rico Open curse, Christiaan Bezuidenhout goes back-to-back

The First Cut: Viktor Hovland snaps Puerto Rico Open curse, Christiaan Bezuidenhout goes back-to-back

Though the holidays are nearing, golf never stops. This week’s Women’s U.S. Open should be great just as last week’s Mayakoba Golf Classic on the PGA Tour rocked until the very end. Viktor Hovland taking his second win is the obvious takeaway there, but there’s plenty more to dive into, including one superstar who has had a very bad 2020.

Additionally, history was made on the European Tour as they wind down toward the end of their 2020 slate as well. We’ll look at South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout’s success over the past fortnight and tidy up some odds and ends from across the golf world. Let’s start where Sunday ended — with the Puerto Rico Open curse.

Deeper on the Puerto Rico Open curse

On Sunday evening after his second win on the PGA Tour, Hovland acknowledged that he was aware of the curse and glad to defeat it. But … what exactly is it? Well, of the 12 iterations of the Puerto Rico Open, none of those golfers had ever gone on to win another PGA Tour event. This includes good players like Hovland and Tony Finau. Incredibly, one of the golfers on the list — Michael Bradley — had won again, but it was at the Puerto Rico Open (he won it in 2009 and 2011). Also, the list of runners-up is pretty amazing and actually gives some credence to belief in the curse. Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day all finished second there. They have a combined 30 wins on the PGA Tour. Regardless, now the curse is broken, and maybe Finau will win seven times on the PGA Tour next season.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout back-to-back

One night at the Masters last month, I was sharing a bottle of wine with my colleague (and fellow South African) Mark Immelman. He was proselytizing about the 26-year-old as a potential future star. Fast forward a month later and Bezuidenhout is now ranked No. 35 in the world after winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Open in back to back weeks on the European Tour. It’s his fourth win in the last two years and pushes him ahead of Tiger Woods, Gary Woodland, Sergio Garcia and Day in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Treasure trove of young stars

You think that the Hovland, Wolff and Morikawa crew is young and impressive? How about this group that played at Mayakoba.

  • Andy Ogletree (age 22): In his pro debut, Ogletree opened hard but closed 70-73 to finish T46. I followed him for a while at the Masters, and he absolutely obliterates the ball. Excited to watch him over the next few years.
  • Austin Eckroat (21): We might have to reconfigure the Oklahoma State golf power rankings. Eckroat was mixing it up with the leaders for a bit and closed with a 65 to finish T12 with Justin Thomas.
  • Akshay Bhatia (18): His T52 here was his second made cut in his last three events. He’s 18 years old. Eighteen!

There’s plenty more where the Wolff, Hovland, Morikawa crew came from, and the PGA Tour will continue to get deeper and deep in the years to come.

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Final count

I got a final count for that trio in their first 18 months on the PGA Tour, by the way. They turned pro at the end of June 2019 at the Travelers Championship, and since then have won six times, finished in the top 10 three times at majors, won a major, made $17.6 million and are all three ranked in the top 15 (!) in the world.

Brooks misses another cut

Given that Mayakoba was the last event of the year, we have a tally on Brooks Koepka’s 2020. He missed five cuts and had just four top 10s (two of them in his last three tournaments). It was a miserable 12 months on the course for Koepka, and all of a sudden he’s in “prove-it” mode again going into 2021, which might be a good thing given how much he’s thrived there over the course of his career.

Hovland humor

Every time Hovland is in contention I’m reminded how low-key funny he is. He’s not going to misdirect you like Phil Mickelson or try and give you the needle” as Tiger Woods likes to say. His is more of an unintentional humor that makes you feel like he’s always in on the joke.

The call in Norway

Speaking of humor, the Norwegian announcers are at it again. Their call of Hovland’s walk-off putt from Sunday is amazing. The fact that they squeezed “our boy!” and “look how ice cold he is!” into a 40-second clip is so delightful to me.