PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Viktor Hovland became the first Norwegian to win the U.S. Amateur, beating UCLA sophomore Devon Bling 6 and 5 on Sunday to cap a dominant week at Pebble Beach.
Hovland took control of the match by winning four straight holes midway through the morning round of the 36-hole final and managed to scramble back after his rare mistakes to give him the Havemeyer Trophy.
Hovland trailed after only one hole in six rounds of match play as he was in control throughout with his coach at Oklahoma State, Alan Bratton, serving as his caddie.
Norway has little history of success in men’s golf with no one from the country ever winning a PGA Tour event. The most prominent Norwegian player is Suzann Pettersen, who has won two majors among her 15 wins on the LPGA Tour.
Bling, who is from Ridgecrest and about to start his sophomore year at UCLA, lost the match when he missed a long birdie putt on the 31st hole.
Hovland was barely challenged in the match play portion of the event, winning back-to-back matches 7 and 6 in the round of 16 and quarterfinals and never getting pushed to the limit in his six matches. Hovland won 43 of the 104 holes in match play.
He took the lead for good in the final with a great save on the par-4 fourth hole. His drive landed in a hazard down an embankment, forcing Hovland to climb about 40 feet down the hill to take his shot. He hit a wedge within 3 feet and made birdie, never giving up the lead.
He expanded that edge by winning four straight holes beginning at No. 8 and was in control the rest of the way. Bling narrowed the deficit to four holes when Hovland bogeyed the par-3 17th and appeared to have a chance to get even closer when Hovland drove into the rocks at the par-5 18th.
But Hovland saved par after taking a one-stroke penalty and Bling missed his birdie putt after laying up on his second shot to keep Hovland up four holes after the morning round.
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Bling then bogeyed the first hole in the afternoon to fall five back. Bling made a long birdie on the 27th hole to get back within four but missed a birdie putt the next hole.
Bling then followed with a double bogey and a three-putt for bogey on the next two holes to fall six holes back with six to go.
After making six birdies in his final seven holes in the semifinals, Hovland wasn’t nearly as sharp in the final. He had just six birdies, four bogeys and one double bogey in 31 holes but Bling couldn’t capitalize, missing several mid-range putts that could have changed the momentum of the match.
This was an emotional week for Bling, whose late mother, Sara, had always wanted to see her son make it at a USGA event. Sara Bling died at age 45 after suffering a sudden blood clot that went to her brain.
Bling had a tough road to the final, getting stretched to the 18th hole in his previous four matches. But after surviving all of those, he couldn’t deliver against Hovland.