Viktor Hovland wins chaotic Hero World Challenge behind brilliant 3-hole stretch
No one was going to catch Collin Morikawa on Sunday. At least no one was supposed to catch Morikawa, who led the Hero World Challenge by five through 54 holes. But a couple of bad Morikawa swings on the front nine evened the playing field, and the tournament was up for grabs on the back nine. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at Tiger Woods’ tournament.
Who won: Viktor Hovland (six-under 66; 18 under overall)
What it means: It’s not an official PGA Tour tournament and FedEx Cup points aren’t earned (although world ranking points are), but Hovland still won $1 million, got to spend the week in the Bahamas and had Tiger hand him a trophy. Not bad. It’s also Hovland’s second straight victory, as he won the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba in his most recent start early in November.
How it happened: Morikawa, arguably the best player in the world right now, might have been expected to breeze to a victory, but he had to take penalty strokes after wild approaches on 4 and 6 and made double bogey on both. A bogey on 9 led to a five-over 41 on the front side, which dropped him to 13 under and brought a host of other players into the mix. Sam Burns, Patrick Reed and Viktor Hovland were all tied for the lead at 15 under when Morikawa made the turn, and it was an action-packed back nine from there.
Burns was the next player to fall back. He was tied for the lead after 13 but made a triple-bogey 7 after chipping five times on 14.
The 14th was also where Hovland started a magnificent run to take a stranglehold of the tournament. He drove it into the green-side bunker on 14 but holed his shot for eagle. Then, on the next hole, a par-5, he rolled in a long eagle putt for back-to-back eagles. He added another red number on 16, converting a short birdie putt to go five under in a three-hole stretch to get to 20 under and lead by three.
Scheffler rebounded from a triple on the front and shot 30 on the back to set the clubhouse lead at 17 under, but Hovland’s hot streak from 14-16 came in handy. He bogeyed the 17th and 18th but still won by one despite starting the day six off the lead.
Oddest thing to happen, runner-up: Reed had to punch out lefty on two holes in a row and went par-bogey on them.
Oddest thing to happen, champion: Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson were both penalized for hitting off the wrong tee on the 9th hole (they actually hit off the 17th tee). Players were told earlier in the week the tees could change for the final round; Spieth and Stenson apparently forgot about the warning. The players were notified of the gaffe as they walked to their tee shots. They were both penalized two strokes.
Best putt to save triple bogey: Burns was tied for the lead when he got to the short par-4 14th. Playing 290 yards, Burns’ tee shot was about 30 yards off the green, and his chip from there came out too hot, slowed up by the pin but then caught the edge of the green and rolled down into a runoff area. Justin Thomas was in a similar spot earlier in the day and chipped in. Burns did not. He hit three straight bump-and-run woods that came up short and rolled back down, and his next chip was a wedge that came to rest on top of the hill on the fringe. He rolled that one in from about 15 feet to save triple bogey before he discarded his ball into the water. “What a terrific 7,” David Feherty said on the broadcast. The disastrous hole dropped Burns three off the lead. He shot 69 and finished T3, three back of Hovland.
Sunday red: Even when Tiger isn’t playing, and when he’s simply just hosting and trying to dodge boredom by hitting shots on the range, he’s still sporting the trademark red.
Up next: The QBE Shootout, an unofficial team event, is next week in Naples, Fla., and the week after that is another unofficial event in the PNC Championship, which many golf fans are still hoping Woods will play with his son, Charlie. The next official PGA Tour event is the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Jan. 6-9, 2022, in Hawaii.