A Star is Born as Viktor Hovland Claims First PGA Tour Title
EUROPEAN Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington would have been keeping his eye on events as they unfolded during the final round of the Puerto Rico Open, and will have been delighted by what he saw as a genuine young contender for his team confirmed his credentials.
Viktor Hovland has already had plenty of people sitting up and taking notice, and even more will be doing so after this victory. Expectations have been high since he turned professional, and it is no surprise. He won the US Amateur Championship, was the world’s top-ranked amateur and claimed low amateur honours at both The Masters and U.S. Open.
Playing on sponsor invites last summer, the Norwegian made the cut in each of his first five PGA Tour starts as a pro, finishing inside the top 16 four times, including fourth at the Wyndham Championship. He also reeled off 13 successive rounds in the 60s. After narrowly missing out on earning his PGA Tour card via non-member points, he headed to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and easily secured his place on the PGA Tour. He then extended his consecutive rounds in the 60s to a record 19, in addition to opening his season with a top-10.
Despite being just 22 and in only his 17th start in Puerto Rico, many were asking why he hadn’t already won on the Tour. And when he holed a chip at the 10th and extended his lead in the final round to three it all looked like it was going to be easy.
But on the par-three 11th, Hovland hit a poor tee shot. He then chunked two chips in a row, and after finally finding the putting surface, missed a short putt. In the blink of an eye, he was walking off the hole with a triple-bogey. And he was now tied for the lead with Josh Teater, a 40-year-old journeyman in his 196th start who was trying to reel Hovland in for his own maiden triumph.
Hovland responded in the way that champions do. Teater birdied the par-five 15th to take the lead. Moments later, Hovland eagled the same hole to take the lead back outright.
But Teater wasn’t finished yet. He birdied the 17th and gave himself a good look at another birdie on the par-five 18th, only to see it just come up just short. It meant Hovland could win in regulation with a birdie on the 72nd hole. His wedge approach, though, was not the best, finishing 30 feet from the hole.
“I was just thinking about all the other putts that I had throughout the round and I've pretty much left every single putt short,” Hovland said. “So I was like 'Okay, I'm not going to hit this putt short.' I had a good line on it and I just whacked it. Thankfully, when it was five, six feet out, I knew it was looking pretty good.”
The ball hit the back of the hole with pace and disappeared. The PGA Tour had its very first champion from Norway and it will surely be the first win of many. He joined Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama as the last players to win at just 22 years of age.
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