ROME — Word traveled around the Ryder Cup venue, Marco Simone, faster than the fighter jets that whirred over the property during the opening ceremonies on Thursday.
In his practice round, Europe’s Viktor Hovland had a hole-in-one on the par-4 fifth hole.
The problem was this: It wasn’t an ace; it was actually Hovland’s second ball played after he’d hit his first in the rough.
Still, there was buzz all around the grounds for him holing out with a 3-wood on the 302-yard risk-reward par-4.
Hovland, playing alongside teammates Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Justin Rose and Ludvig Aberg, didn’t see the ball go in, having to rely on the fans around the green, who erupted.
Hovland is one of the best drivers in the game, ranking fifth on the PGA Tour in total driving and seventh in strokes gained off the tee.
He’s making his second Ryder Cup appearance this week after playing in all five sessions last time out in Whistling Straits and going 0-3-2.
Hovland, the TOUR Championship winner this year, said this week that he’s a better player now than he was two years ago.
“I would have liked to have done better and put some more points on the board, but this time around I feel like a way more complete player,’’ Hovland said earlier this week.
“We are playing at home and I think the home crowd advantage is going to be a lot different than it was at Whistling Straits. I think we are all pretty motivated to prove that what happened last time (a 19-9 U.S. win) is not going to happen again.”
There have only been six holes-in-one in Ryder Cup history, most recently by Paul Casey in 2006 in Ireland.
Others include Peter Butler in 1973, Nick Faldo in 1993, Costantino Rocca and Howard Clark in 1995 and Scott Verplank in 2006.
There has only been one hole-in-one on a par-4 in PGA Tour history, Andrew McGee in the 2001 Phoenix Open.