Viktor Hovland

Viktor Hovland came onto the PGA Tour with an extremely talented crop of young, prodigiously talented golfers. However, while Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff won immediately -- most notably with Morikawa in majors -- Hovland's success was more slow-moving. Yet, the talent was obvious, as was his pervasive smile and likability (who doesn't love a Norwegian metalhead who spent his college career in Stillwater, Oklahoma being one of the best golfers in the world?!). In 2023, everything started to fall into place. Hovland plugged the biggest hole in his golf game (around the greens) and immediately competed at the top of the leaderboard in three of the four major championships, winning multiple times at signature PGA Tour events, and eventually capturing the TOUR Championship and FedEx Cup title. It turns out, there was a killer mentality and edge behind the vibrant smile, making him all the easier to love.
- Cody Williams
FanSided Senior Editor

Why we needed this fandom this year

Golf, to put it mildly, has been put into a bit of turmoil in recent years with the rise of LIV Golf, the departures from the PGA Tour as a result, and the constant barbs between members of the rival tours. It created a divide between golf fans, a divide between players, and no one wins. Though there has been a proverbial merger announced between the Saudi Public Investment Fund and the PGA Tour now that, in theory, should slowly allow this divide to subside, the result has been, unfortunately, many high-profile figures in golf becoming more difficult to like, to defend, or to be a fan of because of the extra-curriculars. Hovland's continued rise to prominence has been a blessing amid this. Outside of largely unsubstantiated rumors, he's been removed from the dramatic, dark undertones in the golfing world of late and has remained a fun-loving, bright-smiling figure who strikes the absolute hell out of the golf ball with maturing aggressiveness. He's a figure golf needed to weed through the BS in the sport and be a uniting presence, even if unknowingly.

What was the icon or totem for this fandom this year?

Ironically, the iconic image from Hovland this year might be the face of a fairway bunker at the 16th hole at Oak Hill during the PGA Championship. Trying to catch eventual winner Brooks Koepka, Hovland attempted a hero shot from the bunker to stay alive, but the shot went into the face, causing a massive score, and ultimately affirming his T2 finish. Yet, for him to bounce back from that heartbreaking moment to continue competing well at majors, to rack up wins at the Memorial, BMW Championship, and TOUR Championship, showed the intestinal fortitude, strong mentality, and maturity uncommon for a 25/26-year-old that propelled him to unreal success as a true star on the rise in golf and the sports world.