Viktor Hovland outlasts Denny McCarthy in playoff for Memorial title

Viktor Hovland of Norway reacts after a making a putt to win in a playoff on the 18th green during the final round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday at Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 04, 2023 in Dublin, Ohio.

Viktor Hovland looked relieved when he made the final putt Sunday.

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With the final putt a foot from the hole, Viktor Hovland already had a look of relief.

He’d come so close so many times in majors over the past year, finishing in the top 10 in the last three, including a second three weeks ago at the PGA Championship. At Oak Hill, he was left to think about what could have been when his second at the 70th hole plugged in a bunker face.

Then, last week at Colonial, he was just a shot back on the second nine before a water ball doomed him.

He even had a near-costly water ball on the 72nd hole six months ago when he won the unofficial Hero World Challenge.

This week at the Memorial, there was no such disaster. Not even a stubbed chip on 12 could topple Hovland this time.

With one of the game’s all-time greats in Jack Nicklaus looking on, Hovland buried a seven-foot par putt to beat Denny McCarthy in a playoff to win the Memorial Tournament.

It’s the 25-year-old Norwegian’s fourth PGA Tour title, but first in the continental U.S., shedding his reputation as winning only at tropical venues.

“I feel like I’ve won a decent amount of tournaments for only being a pro for four years; however, they have been at low key places, resort courses, and abroad, so it feels really cool to get my first win on the U.S. soil,” Hovland said. “Especially at a tournament like this where this week the golf course is arguably harder than most major championship golf courses we play and the crowds were amazing out there. It felt like a major. So it was a really cool that I was able to get it done at a place like this.”

Hovland rallied after a slow start in the final round, making four birdies against the lone miscue at 12 on the back nine during what was a brutally difficult day at Muirfield Village. The final three holes were the most difficult on the course, but Hovland played them in one under, including the only birdie of the day at the par-4 17th.

A final-round 70 brought him to seven under, clipping Scottie Scheffler, who had finished nearly three hours earlier, by one. That was after a poor tee shot left Hovland out of position on 18, but a safe recovery just through the back of the green gave him the chance for an easy par.

But Hovland still trailed McCarthy — who hadn’t made a bogey since Saturday — by one.

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This time, though, it was Hovland’s opponent who made the mistake. McCarthy drove his tee ball on 18 left, hit his second into a bunker and failed to get up and down, setting up the second playoff in as many weeks on the PGA Tour.

In the playoff, Hovland didn’t make the same miss twice. He hit the fairway, hit the green and watched as McCarthy again struggled on the 18th hole. McCarthy drew a tough lie in the right rough this time off the tee and couldn’t make the front edge of the green. His ball rolled 30 yards down the slope, and he made bogey after pitching to 12 feet.

Hovland said the putt in the playoff was actually easier than the five-footer he made in regulation.

“Knowing that Denny’s missed his and it’s basically a free roll, you know, if I make it, I win, if not, we still got a chance,” he said. “So that was a little bit easier and it was more kind of up the hill, a little straighter.”

Early on, even as Hovland made a ridiculous birdie at the 3rd hole after a tee shot missed some 50 yards left, the day seemed like it would belong to Rory McIlroy or Scheffler.

McIlroy began the day in a three-way tie for the lead at six under and watched as a simple par at the first gave him the outright lead. At one point he was tied for the lead at seven under with Scheffler before Scheffler bogeyed 17 and finished at six under.

But McIlroy struggled with his distance control on the firm greens and made five bogeys in eight holes midway through the round. He faded to a 75.

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