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Hovland eyes history

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AFP) — Viktor Hovland could become the youngest modern-era player, and only the fourth in 40 years, to win the same Professional Golfers’ Association Tour event in three consecutive years at this week’s Mayakoba Championship.

The 25-year-old Norwegian will be chasing history starting Thursday at El Camaleón Golf Course at Riviera Maya, Mexico, south of Cancun.

Hovland, who won his first PGA title at the 2020 Puerto Rico Open, beat American Aaron Wise by one stroke for the 2020 Mayakoba crown and defeated host-nation hero Carlos Ortiz by four strokes last year for his most recent PGA triumph.

In the past 40 years, the only players to win three titles in a row at the same event were Australian Stuart Appleby, American Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods, who did it six times, with two “four-peats” among his title runs.

“It would be awesome,” Hovland said.

“To win three times in a row, that’s certainly pretty special. That’s pretty elite company. Yeah, would love that.”

Twelve PGA “three-peat” bids have failed since Stricker’s 2009-2011 John Deere Classic run. Appleby’s run came at the 2004-06 Tournament of Champions.

Hovland would be about four months younger than Woods when he first managed a PGA “three-peat” at the 2001 Memorial tournament.

“The PGA Tour has been around for a while and that’s not something that’s happening all the time, although it does seem like more guys are defending their titles more and more now recently,” Hovland said.

Four other players will have a chance at “three-peats” later in the 2022-2023 PGA campaign after defending crowns earlier this year, including American Sam Burns at the Valspar Championship, South Korean Lee Kyoung-hoon at the Byron Nelson, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy at the Canadian Open and American Patrick Cantlay at the BMW Championship.

Hovland has led all players in reaching greens in regulation over the past two years at Mayakoba, where he played his first PGA Tour event.

“It’s a special place. I loved it even before winning it two times,” Hovland said.

“To come back here as a two-time champion is very special. See if I can add another one this week.”

Hovland’s other titles include last year’s BMW International Open in Germany and Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas and this year’s Dubai Desert Classic.

Hovland produced his best major finish at the British Open in July when he shared fourth at St. Andrews.

“Played a lot of good golf, but maybe not as consistent as I would have liked, especially in the ball-striking area,” Hovland said.

“I really feel like I’ve turned a corner the last kind of couple months. I feel like my game is in a good spot, and then just coming back here I’m really seeing the shots that I need to hit well, feeling good about this week.”

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