Collin Morikawa squandered a five-shot lead and the chance to become world number one as Viktor Hovland emerged victorious from an extraordinary final round of the Hero World Challenge.
Hovland began the day six shots off the pace but carded a closing 66, which included back-to-back eagles on the 14th and 15th, at Albany to secure his third title of the season.
The 24-year-old Norwegian, who successfully defended his Mayakoba Classic title on his last start, bogeyed the last two holes to finish 18 under par, a shot ahead of American Scottie Scheffler.
Scheffler had looked out of contention when he ran up a triple-bogey seven on the fourth, but birdied the sixth and ninth and picked up six more shots in a seven-hole stretch from the 11th to briefly share the lead.
Hovland had made a hat-trick of birdies from the sixth and also birdied the 11th before dropping his first shot of the day on the next, but then holed a bunker shot on the short par-four 14th and followed it with another eagle on the par-five 15th to take command of the tournament.
A birdie on the 16th took the Ryder Cup star three shots clear and allowed him the luxury of two closing bogeys, with tournament officials also clearing him of a potential rules violation as he removed a loose impediment on the 17th green.
“I didn’t think a win was going to be very possible but I know this golf course is tricky,” Hovland told Golf Channel.
“You can make a lot of birdies and make up a lot of ground but it’s very easy to make bogeys and doubles and I knew if I put a good score up there you never know what’s going to happen.”
Tiger Woods may not have participated in the field on Sunday, but that didn’t stop Sunday Tiger from wearing red to a practice session during the final round of the Hero World Challenge.
Woods has begun to break his silence in recent weeks. The 15-time major champion did an exclusive interview with Golf Digest and then appeared at a press conference the next day.
Now, Woods continues to tease a potential return by pulling out the driver and hitting a few balls in the Bahamas.
Golfweek‘s Steve DiMeglio, who’s been on location for the past five days, spoke to Tiger on Saturday’s television broadcast. The two discussed how practice was going.
“I can hit it. It just doesn’t go as far,” Woods said about his driving game. “The power is not there, but I can hit drivers. I can hit any club in the bag. I’m not at the point where I can hear it land, OK?”
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) December 5, 2021
Woods is still recovering from a devastating car accident earlier this year. According to the five-time Masters champion, it wasn’t off the board that could’ve lost his leg after the single-car wreck in California.
Tiger has overcome so much over the course of his time in professional golf. If Woods is able to return to the Tour, even in a limited capacity, it would be one of the more remarkable feats of his career.
And that’s saying a lot.
Viktor Hovland surge leads to trophy at Hero World Championship
Viktor Hovland earns fifth worldwide victory at Hero
NASSAU, Bahamas – One of the things that makes Albany Golf Club tricky is that, like TPC Scottsdale and other desert courses, it’s a bunch of fairways rolled out over hard-packed sand.
Errant drives tend to run out into bushes and plants, when they don’t find water, so when players get sideways, they have a hard time recovering no matter how far they hit it.
Viktor Hovland is one of the best drivers in the world, part of a super-elite subset of players who average 300-plus yards off the tee and hit 60% of the fairways. There were 13 such outliers on the PGA TOUR last season. Scottie Scheffler was another. That they each shot 66 to finish one-two after a wild final-round Sunday at the Hero World Challenge is no coincidence.
“When I first teed off and obviously got off to just making a few pars early on, I didn’t really think winning was even in question,” Hovland said after a topsy-turvy five-birdie, two-eagle round.
And why would he? Collin Morikawa, the most reliable superpower in golf over the last 18 months, coming to the end of a magical season, began the day five clear of his closest pursuer. He was six ahead of Hovland, his roommate for the week.
And then everything went crazy. Morikawa, vying to become the fourth player to reach No. 1 in the world before turning 25 – joining Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth – shot a shocking front-nine 41 to turn the tournament on its head.
It was anybody’s ballgame.
Hovland had just made three straight birdies and was in a greenside bunker on 9 when he caught a glimpse of a leaderboard.
“I believe I was tied for the lead, maybe one shot behind or something like that,” he said. “That’s when I knew that, OK, if I play really well on the back nine, I’ve got a chance.”
He did exactly that.
Five players had at least a share of the lead, but Hovland broke out with eagles at the 14th and 15th holes, the first a reachable par 4 (hole-out from the greenside bunker) and the second a par 5 (7-iron in for his second shot). He birdied 16, too, building himself such a cushion that bogeys on 17 and 18 were inconsequential.
Viktor Hovland’s clutch eagle on No. 15 at Hero
Mr. Working Vacation, Hovland came to the Bahamas having banked his three official TOUR wins at the Puerto Rico Open and World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba (twice). His second straight Mayakoba win came in his last TOUR start, a month ago. Islands. Sand. Vacationers. That’s his milieu, although he’s not sure why.
Asked if the unofficial victory felt like an official one, given that the Hero field featured six of the top 10 players in the world, Hovland said, “Hell, yeah! There’s only 20 guys in the field, but the players here are really good, and I feel like my wins have come when the field hasn’t been as strong, so for me to do well in a field like this gives me a lot of confidence.”
Hovland will remain fifth in the FedExCup and is projected to move up a spot to eighth in the World Ranking.
Morikawa was coming off a season in which he captured the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession, The Open Championship, the DP World Tour Championship, and the Race to Dubai – the first American to win that season-long title. He looked like a lock at Albany – until he double-bogeyed two of his first six holes.
Sam Burns was tied for the lead when he twice chipped up to the elevated 14th green only to see his ball bound up the hill, stop, and trickle back to his feet. He made a long putt for a triple, eagled his next hole, shot 69, and tied for third.
Scheffler, who birdied six of his last eight holes, might have won but for the triple-bogey he made at the par-4 fourth hole.
Brooks Koepka, one of the last players on the range Saturday night, played with Morikawa and had an outside shot at five back. Alas, he doubled the seventh hole and never found his A-game.
Then there was the comedy of errors that befell Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson, both former Hero winners, who hit from the wrong tee markers at the par-5 ninth hole and were penalized two strokes apiece.
In the end it was the analytical Hovland who will go into Christmas with the most to smile about. He plans to spend the holiday back home in Norway, where it’s too cold to play golf. That’s just as well, as he admitted he’s tired and could use some time away from the game.
“Just playing the PGA TOUR is pretty incredible,” he said, “just from thinking back to where I grew up and playing golf in Norway, you’re playing golf six months out of the year and it’s pretty farfetched to even just play golf professionally coming from Norway.
“So, for me to be here and winning tournaments is pretty unreal,” he added.
Well, it’s real. That happened. Calamity was for the other guys, Hovland capitalized on his strengths, and left another sun-splashed tropical locale a winner. The numbers don’t lie.