The Norwegian missed the cut at last week's Genesis Scottish Open and used his free weekend to play 36 holes before heading to Carnoustie for another 18 at one of the toughest venues on The Open rota.
The practice clearly paid off as he followed an opening 68 at the Home of Golf with a 66 which contained an eagle from 139 yards at the par-four 15th.
That left him alongside fellow Ryder Cup star Rory McIlroy at ten under, three shots behind 36-hole leader Cameron Smith.
"Obviously missing the cut last week, I kind of had to fill in some time," he said. "I played 18 holes on Saturday and Sunday, so I feel like I'd kind of gotten a lot of work in before the week even started.
"My caddie Shay Knight, he's been raving about Carnoustie, and it's one of his favourite golf courses in the world. I figured we may as well head over there and play some golf. It was a lot of fun. We probably played it as easy as it possibly could have.
"It didn't play very difficult but I was trying to picture, if there's a certain wind direction on a lot of those holes, there's not a lot of room behind or in between a lot of those bunkers. It was just a cool place and kind of recreating Jean van de Velde on the 18th hole.
"It's just a historical place. You kind of remember shots and it's cool to be there in person.
"We finished in the dark. I couldn't really see the pin on 18 but I think I shot four under. I played pretty nice. So that gave me some confidence going into this week."
Hovland became a Rolex Series champion earlier this season but is searching for his first top ten in a Major Championship.
McIlroy has won four times in golf's four biggest events and has finished in the top ten at the previous three in 2022.
He followed an opening 66 with a 68 on day two and insisted he would focus only on himself as he searched for a first Major win since 2014.
"I know I've got the game," he said. "That's all I need. I just need to go out and play my game and play my golf over the next two days and that's all I can do.
"Cam Smith goes out and shoots another two rounds like he did the first two days, I'm going to have a really hard time to win the tournament. So I've just got to go out and do the best I can and worry about myself and hopefully that's good enough.
"Just stay patient, keep hitting good golf shots, limit the mistakes.
"I made two bogeys from two three-putts from just being too far away on the green. But apart from that, just keep plugging away, birdie the holes that you're supposed to birdie out here. Minimise the danger whenever you can."