Hovland successfully defends title at Hero World Challenge
NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Viktor Hovland won the Hero World Challenge with more excitement than he needed Sunday, clinching it with a 20-foot bogey putt on the final hole for a 3-under 69 to join tournament host Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners.
Hovland took a four-shot lead at the turn when Masters champion Scottie Scheffler made double bogey on the par-5 ninth. No one got closer than two shots the rest of the way.
It just didn't feel that easy.
Hovland had a two-shot lead on the 18th when his 6-iron from the slope above a bunker turned hard left and into the water. He took a penalty drop and hit a full wedge to about 20 feet for a chance to save bogey.
Scheffler was in the sandy area right of the green, and his chip ran hard over the lip and settled 10 feet away, giving him a par putt to force a playoff if Hovland missed.
Hovland holed the bogey putt for another trophy presentation with Woods. It was far different from a year ago, when he rallied from six shots behind.
“It's frigging nerve-wracking,” Hovland said with a smile. “You're never that comfortable. I didn't play that great on the back nine, but it was good enough.”
Woods won in 2006 and 2007 when it was held at Sherwood Country Club. He had to withdraw this week with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, instead watching in his Sunday red shirt for some drama no one was expecting.
Hovland finished at 16-under 272 and won $1 million. The victory is unofficial, but the world ranking points pushed him up three spots to No. 9.
Scheffler needed to win to return to No. 1 in the world, at least for a few weeks. Rory McIlroy was projected to finish the year at the top of the ranking regardless of the outcome.
Starting three shots behind, Scheffler holed a pitch from 30 yards short of the green on the par-5 sixth hole for eagle to reach 14-under par and momentarily tie for the lead. Hovland was in trouble off the tee, had to play a blind shot over a 20-foot high dune and then holed an 18-foot birdie putt to stay one ahead.
The next hole was pivotal, the 18th notwithstanding.
Scheffler's pitch from the bottom of the fairway on the short par-4 seventh barely got onto the green and rolled into the bunker, leading to bogey. Hovland was on the edge of a bunker and chipped to 5 feet for birdie and a two-shot swing, restoring his lead to three.
Scheffler's double bogey on the ninth, which culminated with a three-putt from about 15 feet, left him five shots behind.
Cameron Young made a strong bid and got within two shots at one point until he took bogey on the 16th. Xander Schauffele also made an early run until that ended with a bogey on the par-5 16th.
Scheffler ran off three straight birdies through the 16th hole to get within two shots, and Hovland gave him an opening on the 18th until he closed it with the big putt.
“I made it a little more exciting, I guess,” Hovland said with a smile.
Scheffler's goal was to get within one shot before the 18th. He didn't quite reach that, but he still had a chance.
“I said earlier in the week that I don't like finishing second,” said Scheffler, a runner-up in the Bahamas for the second straight year who had his third runner-up finish this year. “It's not a good feeling right now. But I'm proud of the fight.”
Scheffler still heads into the holidays with a breakthrough year behind him — the Masters among his four PGA Tour wins, No. 1 in the world longer than anyone else this year, the PGA Tour player of the year.
Young had a 68 and finished alone in third, followed by Schauffele (68) and Justin Thomas, who had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine to salvage a poor start and close with 70 to finish fifth.
“It's only 20 players, but it's the best 20 players in the world,” Hovland said. “You've got to play your best to win.”
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