HERO WORLD CHALLENGE

70 for Rory as Hovland ambushes Morikawa in bizzare Bahamas finale

by Ronan MacNamara  

Rory McIlroy. By Golffile

On one of the most bizarre Sundays in golf, Viktor Hovland eventually came out on top to win the Hero World Challenge by one shot in the Bahamas.

Rory McIlroy shot a final round of 70 to finish the week in 18th place on eight-under.

After eight opening pars, the four-time major champion birdied the 9th to get into the red for the day. Another dropped shot on a par-5, the 11th put him back to level before he took advantage of the two easiest holes of the day with a birdie, eagle run on 14 and 15. A closing bogey on 18 brought the curtain down on an erratic week for McIlroy.

The final round of Tiger’s tournament seemed destined to be a procession that saw Collin Morikawa coast to victory and replace Jon Rahm at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings. But golf doesn’t work like that and no lead is too big.

Morikawa’s five-shot overnight lead vanished after six holes as he made double bogeys on the 4th and 6th to drop out of the lead and blow the tournament wide open.

A clumsy bogey on 9 saw the Open Champion turn in five-over 41 and ultimately end his chances of capping off a sensational season.

In truth, the standard of golf was deplorable at times with doubles and triples being thrown in across the field with nobody willing to step up and grab the tournament by the scruff of the neck.

Sam Burns held the lead for a while before taking five attempts at getting the ball on the 14th green from below the putting surface. He did manage to hole brilliantly for a triple-bogey seven but his chances were gone even despite an eagle at the par-5 15th.

Scottie Scheffler started the day seven strokes in arears of Morikawa and recovered from a triple bogey on the 4th to move into a share of the lead at one point.

A fabulous back nine of thirty which included six birdies in seven holes, looked like it might be enough as he got to seventeen-under, but Hovland had other ideas.

In true Tiger Woods fashion, the Norwegian took control of the tournament with a dramatic eagle, eagle burst on 14 and 15.

Faced with a treacherous bunker shot on the driveable par-4 14th, Hovland landed his second shot on a sixpence and saw the ball trundle into the hole, before draining a fifteen-foot eagle putt on the next hole to roar into a two-shot lead.

He would move three-clear with two to play courtesy of a killer birdie on 16 but two bogeys and a potential rules infraction to finish made things slightly nervy coming home, which summed up the final round.

Unbeknownst to Hovland, the rules officials were studying the video clip of him on the par-3 17th where they were investigating whether he had illegally removed some grains of sand from the fringe of the green.

Meanwhile, Hovland was busy navigating his way up the 18th with a difficult chip shot from short right of the green.

The rules officials and the golfing gods decided that we had enough twists and turns for one day as the 24-year-old tapped in for a closing bogey to beat Scheffler by the minimum.

And breathe.

Out of the final four groups only Hovland, Patrick Reed and Daniel Berger escaped without anything more than a bogey on Sunday in one of the most volatile final rounds in recent years. Morikawa’s cakewalk turned into a calamity on a day where pressure told the story for so many.

But Hovland, who in the end was fortunate to have built up a sizeable enough lead to afford two closing bogeys, notched his fourth career win.

“Yeah, honestly, when I first teed off and obviously got off to just making a few pars early on, I didn't really think winning was even in question,” said Hovland. “But after I made three birdies in a row at the end of the front nine and I got to No. 9 and I was in the greenside bunker and I looked up at the leaderboard and I saw I believe I was tied for the lead, maybe one shot behind or something like that, that's when I knew that, okay, if I play really well on the back nine, I've got a chance.

“There's only 20 guys in the field, but the players here are really good and I feel like my wins have come when the field hasn't been as strong, so for me to do well in a field like this gives me a lot of confidence.”

The Ryder Cup star feels he has overachieved in his professional career thus far having grown up in Oslo, Norway where golf is not a popular sport.

“I would say so. You know, still it's crazy to think that I'm, you know, still just playing the PGA TOUR is pretty incredible just from thinking back to where I grew up and playing golf in Norway, you're playing golf six months out of the year and it's pretty farfetched to even just play golf professionally coming from Norway. So for me to be here and winning tournaments is pretty unreal.”

Hovland believes the turning point in the round was the hole out bunker shot on 14 which ultimately saw the work he has put in on his game around the greens come to fruition.

“The bunker shot on 14 was not very easy. The ball was sitting down and I was contemplating hitting more out to the right so I would give myself more green because if it comes out dead with no spin, it's rolling off the green. But I decided to just give it some extra speed, which has kind of been one of the things I've been struggling with around the greens. If it's a high-pressure situation, I tend to hit it soft and kind of, you know, punt it more instead of going for the open face and hit it hard and I decided to do that there and it worked out.”


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