“First time for everything.”
Viktor Hovland had been tipped for great things at this week’s US Open.
The Norwegian rising star, ranked 13th in the world after four top-three finishes on the PGA Tour this year, was earmarked by many as a potential winner at Torrey Pines (he finished tied second at the Farmers Insurance Open, also held at the San Diego venue, in January).
However, the golfing gods often operate in cruel – and sometimes confusing – ways, as evidenced by Hovland’s exit from the tournament after just 27 holes on Friday.
During his warm-up for the second round, Hovland was left with sand in his eye after hitting a bunker shot in the practice area.
Sand in the eye isn’t an overly rare thing in golf, but while most players are lucky enough to be relieved of the discomfort after a few minutes, Hovland was forced to end his participation in the year’s third major.
“First time for everything,” Hovland said on his Instagram page. “Hit a bunker shot in my warm-up today and caught some sand in my left eye.
Get well soon, Viktor Hovland.
Never change. pic.twitter.com/VX06nxaWIg
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 19, 2021
“Typically, when faced with such an unfortunate circumstance, the remedial action is to blink a few times for the sand to clear. However, the unique San Diego sand decided to linger. Much like the stubborn belly fat we all possess even after countless hours of cardio.”
Hovland, who shot a three-over-par 74 in Thursday’s opening round, decided to persevere and began his second round with a sandy eye.
However, having felt some relief while out on the course, the two-time PGA Tour winner’s vision ‘took a turn for the worse’ and he was forced to withdraw having fallen to nine-over, well outside the cut mark.
“To withdraw, or not to withdraw. That was the question.”
“After coming to terms with reality, my tee time was quickly approaching,” he added.
“With a greatly diminished eyesight in the oculus sinister (left eye), the plan of attack was to try not to implode on the first few holes in order to have a chance to make the cut when eye sight had been regained.
“After miraculously remaining unscathed for the first four holes, I sensed some improvement. I had just enough hope to keep going. A few more bogeys inevitably ensued and on hole 18 (my 9th hole), the slowly improving vision took a turn for the worse.
“We were back to where we started. The inkling of hope that was once present had sought refuge elsewhere. To withdraw, or not to withdraw. That was the question.
Just watched Viktor Hovland put his driver in a trash can on the range and walk away. Jovially, of course. (I think it was cracked, still pretty hilarious).
— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) June 17, 2021
“All jokes aside, hate to withdraw but will be back soon. Thanks for the messages!”
England’s Richard Bland, 48, who recently captured his maiden European Tour title at the 478th attempt, leads the tournament at the halfway mark alongside American Russell Henley on five-under.
Former Masters winner Louis Oosthuizen is just one back with Matthew Wolff, while Jon Rahm and Bubba Watson are well-placed at three-under.
Rory McIlroy is at one-over following a disappointing 73 on Friday, while Shane Lowry battled well to make the cut at four-over.