Viktor Hovland uses borrowed driver to open with 67 in Mayakoba

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Danny Lee is certainly not the first PGA TOUR golfer to try and run a little faster with his driver.

But he may be the first to cause a bit of last-minute panic in one of his fellow TOUR members after just one swing.

RELATED: Full ranking | Inside the highlights of Hovland

Wednesday afternoon at the World Wide Technology Championship in Mayakoba, Lee, who finished T2 last week at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, was in the middle of a speed training session. He was hitting a ball speed of around 185 mph, but Viktor Hovland, who was next to him, wanted to see how much speed Lee could generate with his driver – which is about an inch longer.

Lee stepped on one and the handle broke.

“It was very unexpected,” Lee said. “I felt so sorry for him. If I had had a spare driver I would have given it to him, but I didn’t.

“I just looked up after he hit the shot and he was in pieces,” Hovland said.

Enter James Hahn, who had another Ping G-425 pilot with almost the same specs as the usual Hovland player.

“(Hovland) kept hitting him on the driving range and surprisingly he was hitting really well with it,” said Lee.

Kenton Oates, who is a PGA TOUR representative for Ping, said the Hovland driver in play Thursday was the same model, loft, and swing weight – with a slightly different neck – as the driver. usual from Hovland.

“You give something pretty close to a guy like Viktor and he will find out,” Oates said.

Hovland didn’t seem to have a problem with that. The defending champion in Mexico shot a 4 under 67 first round and only missed two fairways – both, he said, when he didn’t actually hit the driver.

“It’s a little shorter, it’s a different tree, but honestly it almost helped me this week because it’s a little shorter,” said Hovland. “He’s probably going 10 yards shorter, but I just felt like I could really hit him a little lower and a little straighter. So I hit this stuff really well.

Hovland, who finished fifth on the TOUR last season in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, ventured to another area golf course to try out the new driver on Wednesday in different winds. But it was a quick learning session for Hovland.

“As soon as I … hit a couple with it, I was like, ‘That’s kind of nice. I think I can work with that, ”Hovland said.

Oates said Hovland’s drive had always impressed him and that Hovland’s consistent form of shooting has been combined with a nearly 6mph ball speed gain since joining the TOUR.

Oates said that because the break – which happened because Lee has such an aggressive pushback on his pilot swing – happened in Mexico, it created a unique situation for Team Ping. If it was next week’s Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open, Oates said, the two-time TOUR winner would have had a new driver in about 20 minutes.

Oates said Ping’s staff member Taylor Moore, who was in Mexico hoping to step onto the pitch as a replacement, was also ready to provide a suitable replacement for Hovland.

After Hovland’s driving performance on the first round of the El Camaleón Mayakoba golf course, Oates laughed when asked if Hovland could take Hahn’s specs into account when he fits into new things Ping. next year.

“Dude, next year? If he hits like that, maybe it will be next week, ”Oates said. “You play this game, and a lot of times guys can go out with their friends and say, ‘you know, I hit such a club. It’s a different situation, but it happens (on the TOUR) and it ends up being the best adjustment process. “

While it all worked out in the end for Hovland (and Lee, who opened with a solid 3-under 68), will Lee still try to make up for it somehow?

“In the future,” Lee said, “I’ll give her something for sure.”

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