Viktor Hovland, starting the day six behind, landed back-to-back eagles to go ahead and then had the luxury of back-to-back bogeys to win the Hero World Challenge for his third international win of 2021. Hovland (66) finished at 18-under 270 and won by one shot over Scottie Scheffler (66).
On a dramatic final day, filled with both brilliance and errors at the Albany Golf Club, no less than five players had at least a share of the lead at some stage. Among them was Hovland, who picked five shots between 14th and 16th to be able to afford bogeys on the last two.
For Hovland this was the third win in 2021 following wins in Mexico a month ago and in Germany on the European Tour in summer.
It's Hovland's fifth win in 62 starts as a pro and it came over a field that included 10 major championship winners and 13 other golfers from this year's Ryder Cup.
Collin Morikawa, who was bogey free on the third day, had two double bogeys on the final day and shot 76. He slipped to Tied-fifth. Morikawa letting go a five shot lead was reminiscent of Charley Hoffman losing after a five-shot lead after 54 holes in 2017 Hero World Challenge. Rickie Fowler won that year.
At the final presentation, Dr. Pawan Munjal, the Chairman and CEO of Hero MotoCorp recalled that Hovland’s first success as a pro came had also come at another Hero event – the Hero Challenge at Yas Links in Abu Dhabi on the European Tour early in 2020. So the HWC was his second success with Hero and Hovland smiled while dwelling on it and later said, “He showed great memory and I remembered. It was a nice double.”
Hovland after receiving the huge Trophy from Tiger Woods also recalled that in 2019 when the legend won his 15th Major at the Masters, the Norwegian youngster was the low amateur and sat next to him at the presentation. “Now to stand next to him and get this Trophy is surreal,” said Hovland.
Hero World Challenge debutant Hovland started slow with five pars and then had three birdies from sixth to eighth. On the back nine a birdie on 11 was exchanged with a bogey on 12. Then came the killer-blow or rather blows – a bunker shot into the hole for an eagle two on Par-4 14th and another eagle came on the Par-5 15th. Hovland hit his second shot with the wind and got it to 20 feet from where he holed it for a second eagle in as many holes. That pushed him up to 19-under and it became 20-under with a birdie on 16th from four feet. But the bogeys on 17 and 18 saw him finish at 18-under.
With Scheffler having finished at 17-under and the lead group of Morikawa and Brooks Koepka out of the equation, Hovland had the luxury of playing bogeys on 17 and 18 to secure the win.
Scheffler started seven shots back and even had a triple on seventh, but he birdied six times from 11th to 17th but narrowly missed one more birdie on the 18th hole. He shot 66 and finished one shot behind.
Sam Burns (69), reeled under a triple bogey seven on Par-4 14th was Tied-third alongside Patrick Reed (72).
Morikawa, the Open champion, missed three birdie chances from 10 feet and inside at the start and visited the bushes on No. 4 and 6 for two double bogeys and he never recovered. The 41 on the front nine was the worst of the week.
On the back nine Morikawa birdied 11th and 15th but dropped a final shot on 18 for 76 and was Tied-fifth alongside Justin Thomas (64). A win would have made Morikawa No. 1 in the world, a position that stays with Jon Rahm, who didn't play this week.
Thomas made a great run with an 8-under 64 that lifted him from the lower half of the leaderboard to the top quarter of it. He tied with Morikawa.
The champion Hovland said, “I didn't think a win was going to be very possible. But I know this course is tricky. You can make birdies, but it's easy to make bogeys and doubles. If I put a good score up there, you never know what's going to happen.”
The turning point was the eagle on 14th and then the second eagle on 15th made him the favourite.
That was when the momentum had shifted totally from the struggling Morikawa to his housemate Hovland. “We don’t talk much about golf and I know he would be very happy for me just as I would be for him.”
On the 15th Sam Burns, a two-time winner this year, saw his hopes dashed with a nightmarish triple which saw him hit up the slope and have it roll back to his feet.
First round co-leader Daniel Berger’s hopes ended with two bogeys on the back nine though he did have an eagle hole out from the fairway on 15th. Bryson DeChambeau went into the water on 18 and the halfway leader finished T-14.
The start itself on Sunday was bizarre as the first group of Henrik Stenson and Jordan Spieth, both past champions here, hit their ninth tee shot from what had been converted into the 17th tee for the final round. The players had been warned earlier, but the duo forgot and were docked two shots each.