By Tom LaMarre
Viktor Hovland of Norway will be seeking a bit of history this week, when he tries to win the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba for the third consecutive year at El Camaleón Golf Course in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
The 25-year-old Hovland will attempt to become only the fourth player in the last 40 years to capture the same PGA Tour event for the third straight season.
“I still have to pinch myself about it, but I feel like I’ve gotten better every single year, and if I continue to get better every single year, I’m going to have more opportunities to win,” said Hovland, whose only other PGA Tour victory came in the 2020 Puerto Rico Open.
“It feels awesome. Obviously, I feel like my game is in a good spot going into this week, and I know this course fits my game really well. There’s a lot of trouble on both sides of the golf course and being a straight driver and good off the tee, that really helps me here.”
Only three players on the PGA Tour have won the same tournament three consecutive years since 1982, and naturally Tiger Woods leads the way in that department. Woods has done it an amazing six times and twice has won the same event four years in a row.
Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational eight times including in 2000-01-02-03; he also captured the WGC Bridgestone Invitational eight times, including 1999-2000-01 and in 2005-06-07; he claimed the Farmers Insurance Open seven times, including in 2005-06-07-08; Tiger also won the WGC-Cadillac Championship seven times, including 2005-06-07, and the Memorial Tournament five times, including 1999-2000-01.
The last player to win the same tournament three straight times was Steve Stricker, who captured the John Deere Classic from 2009-10-11, while Stuart Appleby of Australia did the same in the Sentry Tournament of Champions from 2004-05-06.
Hovland is the first of five players who will have a chance to go for three in a row during the 2022-23 PGA Tour season, as Sam Burns (Valspar Championship), K.H. Lee (AT&T Byron Nelson), Rory McIlroy (RBC Canadian Open) and Patrick Cantlay (BMW Championship) also successfully defended their titles in 2021-22.
This week marks the 13th time a player has gone for the three-peat and failed since Stricker’s victory at the John Deere Classic in 2011.
Also in the field this week are major champions Jason Day of Australia, second-ranked Scottie Scheffler and ninth-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, plus Seamus Power of Ireland, Matt Kuchar, Tony Finau, Billy Horschel, Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, Aaron Wise and former Stanford stars Maverick McNealy and Patrick Rodgers.
1. Viktor Hovland, Norway – The 11th-ranked Hovland has three victories on the PGA Tour and two of them have come in Mayakoba. In 2020, he defeated Aaron Wise by one stroke, and last season he won by four strokes over Carlos Ortiz of Mexico. He has won six times as a pro and started the new season with a tie for fifth in the Zozo and a tie for 21st in the CJ Cup.
2. Scottie Scheffler, United States – Playing for the first time since losing the No. 1 world ranking to Rory McIlroy, having slipped to No. 2, Scheffler is trying to regain the form that carried him to four victories on the PGA Tour last season. He is making his third start in Mayakoba, having finished in solo fourth last year after tying for 18th two seasons ago.
3. Seamus Power, Ireland – Coming off his second PGA Tour victory last week in the Bermuda Championship, Power will try to keep it going at Mayakoba, where he tied for 11th last season by posting four scores in the 60s. He also captured the 2021 Barbasol Championship and last season posted 13 finishes in the top 25, including a tie for ninth in the PGA Championship.
4. Thomas Detry, Belgium – The 29-year-old Detry, seeking his first pro victory, has gotten off to a strong start in the new season by tying for 12th in the Fortinet, tying for ninth at Sanderson Farms and finish one stroke behind winner Seamus Power in Bermuda after tying for 10th in the Genesis Scottish Open in July. He tied for 22nd last year in his first appearance at Mayakoba.
5. Tony Finau, United States – The 14th-ranked Finau is making his first start of the season after doubling his victory total on the PGA Tour to four last season, when he finished in the top 10 on nine occasions, including two runner-up results. He is making his seventh start at Mayakoba, where his best results were a tie for seventh in 2014 and a tie for eighth two seasons ago.
6. Brendon Todd, United States – Claimed one of his three PGA Tour victories and five as a pro in 2019 at Mayakoba, by one stroke over three players. Todd also tied for eighth in his title defense and tied for 11th last season, when he recorded seven finishes in the top 25. So far this season, he tied for seventh in the CJ Cup in South Carolina and tied for ninth in the Fortinet.
7. Emiliano Grillo, Argentina – After finishing second in the John Deere Classic and the 3M Open last season, Grillo started the new campaign by claiming fourth in the Zozo, tying for fifth at Sanderson Farms and tying for 25th in the Fortinet. Winner of the 2016 Frys.com Open has four top-10 finishes at Mayakoba, including a tie for fifth in 2018 and a tie for eighth in 2020.
8. Billy Horschel, United States – A seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the Memorial Tournament last season, Horschel opened the new campaign with a tie for seventh in the CJ Cup after helping the United States retain the Presidents Cup. He is playing at Mayakoba for the eighth time, with his best results a tie for fifth in 2020 and a tie for eighth a week earlier.
9. Aaron Wise, United States – After claiming his first PGA Tour victory in the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson, Wise almost made it two the next season when he closed with a 63 and finished one stroke behind winner Viktor Hovland at Mayakoba. He had 11 finishes in the top 25 last season, including second in the Memorial. Started this season with a tie for sixth in CJ Cup.
10. Collin Morikawa, United States – The ninth-ranked Morikawa has been a little bit of a slump since finishing fifth in the Masters and tying for fifth in the U.S. Open last season, as he has only one top-10 finish in 12 other tournaments since. He tied for 45th in the Zozo, tied for 29th in the CJ Cup to start this season and is making his first career appearance at Mayakoba.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jason Day, Australia; Maverick McNealy, United States; Alex Noren, Sweden; Patrick Rodgers, United States; K.H. Lee, South Africa; Taylor Montgomery, United States; Adam Hadwin, Canada; Justin Lower, United States; Sepp Straka, Austria; Matt Kuchar, United States.
1. Aaron Rai, England – A six-time winner as a pro around the world, Rai had seven top 25s on the PGA Tour last season including a T-6 in Famers. T-15 in Mayakoba debut last season.
2. Brandon Wu, United States – Winner of the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Championship finished T-2 in Mexico Open, T-3 in Puerto Rico Open and T-6 in the Genesis Scottish Open last season.
3. Kevin Yu, Taiwan – A 21-time amateur winner, but is still winless as a pro after losing 2021 TPC Colorado Championship in playoff. T-3 at Bermuda last week, T-19 in Sanderson Farms.
4. Beau Hossler, United States – Still seeking first PGA Tour win after losing to Ian Poulter in a playoff at 2018 Houston Open, Hoss was third at Pebble, T-4 in Valero Texas Open last season.
5. Zecheng Dou, China – Nine time winner as a pro, including three on the Korn Ferry Tour, Dou finished T-17 in Bermuda and T-21 in the Fortinet Championship to start this season.
For first–round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html