A funny thing fate. Consider Viktor Hovland, some driving range shenanigans and a shattered driver.
A day before this week’s World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba, Hovland lent the club to Danny Lee for a swing, Lee snapped it, and Hovland was stuck using a backup of James Hahn’s. It was also a touch shorter, but after a few swings, in the bag it went.
A Thursday 67, followed by a Friday 65, a Saturday 62 and a Sunday 67 tell you what a stroke of serendipity it might have been.
“I guess I did him a favor he’s doing just fine,” Lee tweeted on Sunday morning.
Indeed. While there’s no way of knowing what a longer driver might have done this week, the shorter one Hovland employed did the job, affording him more control off the tee at the tight at El Camaleon Golf Club. In the end, in the defense of his title he won last year, Hovland finished at 23-under, which was four better than Carlos Ortiz and five better than Justin Thomas.
“On this golf course, it’s perfect because I can get up on these tight holes and just kind of know that it’s going to go pretty straight if I just hit down on it a little bit and just flight one down,” Hovland said of the driver after his third round. “It’s been amazing.”
Hovland entered Sunday with a two-shot lead over Talor Gooch, and after four, his advantage was down to one. But from there, his lead was never less than three and was as great as six. On the 554-yard, par-5 5th, Hovland birdied after chipping his ball to about a foot from the hole. On the 554-yard, par-5 7th, Hovland rolled in an 8-footer for birdie. On the 462-yard, par-4 9th, Hovland dropped a 30-footer for birdie.
On the back, Hovland went birdie-bogey on both the 11th and 12th holes and the 14th and 15th holes, and he added a birdie on the 386-yard, par-4 17th. Scottie Scheffler had surged to within three shots at one point on the back nine, but a double bogey on the par-4 16th after a drive out of bounds derailed his chances.
For Hovland, it’s his third career PGA Tour title, and second straight in Mexico, all at the age of 24.
“I played really good golf throughout the week,” Hovland said on Golf Channel afterward. “I did not have my best stuff today, but I wish I could putt more like I did today more often. That was awesome. It was just a blast all week.
The big takeaway
Hovland wins. Justin Thomas finishes third. Scottie Scheffler fourth. Matthew Wolff ties for fifth. With Thomas the old man of this group at age 28, the next decade-plus of golf is going to be fun.
The big shots
— Viktor Hovland begins the final round at 19-under and two shots ahead of Talor Gooch, and three shots ahead of Justin Thomas. When Hovland tees off, Danny Lee is also within three shots, after playing his first 15 holes at eight-under.
— Gooch birdies the 116-yard, par-3 4th after rolling in a 6-footer, and he moves to within a shot of Hovland’s lead. Hovland is at 19-under, Gooch is at 18-under, and Sergio Garcia is at 16-under.
— Hovland birdies the 554-yard, par-5 5th after chipping to about a foot, Gooch bogeys it, and Hovland takes a three-shot lead. Hovland’s at 20-under, Gooch and Scottie Scheffler are at 17-under, and Matthew Wolff is at 16-under.
— Hovland birdies the 554-yard, par-5 7th after rolling in an 8-foot putt, and he moves his lead to four shots. Hovland is at 21-under, Scheffler and Thomas are at 17-under, and Wolff and Gooch are at 16-under.
— Hovland, after hitting into the left rough off the tee, rolls in a 30-footer for birdie on the 462-yard, par-4 9th, and he moves his lead to four shots. Hovland is at 22-under, Scheffler is at 18-under, Thomas is at 17-under, and Wolff and Gooch are at 16-under.
— Hovland rolls in a 15-footer for birdie on the 360-yard, par-4 11th, and he leads by four shots. Hovland is at 23-under, Scheffler is at 19-under, and Thomas and Gooch are at 17-under.
— Hovland bogeys the 451-yard, par-4 12th after missing the green on his approach shot, and his lead is three shots. Hovland’s at 22-under, Scheffler is at 19-under, and Gooch is at 17-under.
— Scheffler double-bogeys the 515-yard, par-4 16th after hitting his tee shot out of bounds, and Hovland’s lead grows to five shots. Hovland is at 22-under, and Scheffler, Thomas and Gooch are at 17-under.
— Hovland drops an 8-footer for birdie on the 452-yard, par-4 14th, and his lead is six shots. Hovland’s at 23-under, and Scheffler, Thomas, Gooch and Carlos Ortiz are at 17-under.
— Hovland bogeys the 155-yard, par-3 15th on a three-putt, and his lead is four shots. Hovland is at 22-under, and Thomas and Ortiz are at 18-under.
— Hovland drops a 12-footer for birdie on the 386-yard, par-4 17th, and his lead is four shots. Hovland’s at 23-under, Ortiz is at 19-under, and Thomas is at 18-under.
— Hovland pars the 458-yard, par-4 18th, and he defends his title and wins his third career PGA Tour crown. He finishes at 23-under, Ortiz at 19-under and Thomas at 18-under.
The final word
“He’s so about getting better and better and better. He knows he has a chance to be a great player out here, and he’s well on his way.” — Curt Byrum on Golf Channel on Hovland