Very special ‘Hovland will ‘hunt down’ Morikawa and dominate golf – Wayne Riley

Step aside, Jon Rahmthe battle for global dominance in men’s golf is none of your business.

That’s according to Wayne Riley, who tipped Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa to forge a rivalry similar to the one we witnessed in the 2000s between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Hovland reached a career-high fifth in the OWGR after a T4 finish at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship last week and has been touted by many as a future world No. And it’s safe to say he made a big impression on Sky’s radar. “Riley.

When asked who between Hovland and Morikawa will dominate in 10 years, the affable course commentator was firm in his response.

He said, “That’s Hovland to me. I feel like right now Morikawa is a better player than Viktor Hovland because he’s a short game guru, and that’s what Viktor Hovland needs to work on to get to where Morikawa is. But I think Viktor is very, very special and I think he’s going to hunt him down.

“Is it going to be a Tiger vs. Phil or Tiger vs. Ernie battle, hopefully. Our game is healthy – there are kids like that everywhere playing great and it keeps everyone watching golf.

While it’s hard not to admire Riley’s enthusiasm and confidence in Hovland, there are a few things to unpack in what he said. One being the very loose use of the term ‘short game guru’.

Morikawa can be many things, but a short game guru is not one of them. Last year, the American ranked 86th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Around the Green, the best he’s managed since turning pro in 2019. Combine that with his penchant for more Bad weeks with the putter as good doesn’t make it worthy of such high praise.

What Is it that making him worthy of adulation is what he does before he hits the green – especially his prowess with an iron in his hand. Since Tiger was in its prime, no one has made this part of the game so easy. It’s for this reason that Morikawa doesn’t need to be a short game guru. On the PGA Tour last season, he was the only player to earn, on average, more than one stroke per round against the course approaching the green.

The second thing is that neither Hovland nor Morikawa are, or have ever been, world No. 1. That’s not to say they’ll never get there, but a certain Spaniard does a pretty good job of overpowering him. And then there’s the horde of other superstars on the prowl.

As for Hovland himself, he doesn’t care too much about climbing that particular mountain, admitting he’ll be happy as long as he plays well.

“Of course, I would like [reach World No. 1] but I’m still going to have fun with this game,” he said. “Whether it happens or not, it’s more about playing well and trying to lift trophies.

“If it comes, it comes. If not, I’m sure I’ll be happy regardless.

Michael C. Ford