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Viktor Hovland Celebrates Dubai Desert Classic Victory

By: | Mon 31 Jan 2022 | Comments


RORY McILROY will be heading home to Florida wondering how on earth he failed to win the Dubai Desert Classic. Viktor Hovland celebrated his sixth tournament win in under two years after beating Richard Bland in a playoff but the Norwegian will know he should not have been raising the trophy aloft.

McIlroy needed a birdie at the 72nd hole to claim the title for a record-equalling third time. Par would have been sufficient for the Northern Irishman to join Hovland and Bland in a playoff. 

Instead, McIlroy found water with his approach to the par five. After a bogey six consigned McIlroy to third, the four-times major winner was a picture of misery as he made a speedy exit from the Emirates Club. 

Onlookers will speculate over whether McIlroy was correct to take on the last green from 260 yards. But that is the way he plays the game. 

He had miraculously saved par from a bush on the previous hole. McIlroy knew as soon as his shot was airborne that it would find the pond that protects the 18th green. As a putt for par slid past, McIlroy knew his fate.

Hovland had finished eagle-birdie to reach 12 under par. Bland, enjoying a career resurgence at 48, converted from 22-feet at the 18th for the same aggregate

But McIlroy, playing further back in the field, had holes to spare and the trophy within his grasp. For the second time in the desert in little over two months - McIlroy was also in pole position to win the DP World Tour Championship - capitulation was to prove the theme.

Hovland rises to world No 3 after this triumph and now has has the leading pair, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa, firmly in his sights. 

“I have quite a lot to prove to be able to beat those guys but this is a good start,” said the Norwegian. “It is very rewarding to see all the hard work paying off. I guess being No 3 is pretty crazy but that stuff can vary week-to-week. I’m not going to let that stuff dictate my mood or how I do things.”

PGA TOUR

IT TOOK him 206 attempts but, finally, Luke list is a winner on the PGA Tour. And boy did he have to do it the hard way, seeing off world No1 Jon Rahm, former world no1 Jason Day, and then Will Zalatoris in a playoff to claim the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. If you have to wait all the time for a maiden success, this wasn’t a bad way to do it.

List, 37, shot a final round of 66 and had to wait nearly two hours to see if it was enough for a playoff. “It's a whirlwind,” List said after hitting his third shot to within inches on the first playoff hole, the par-5 18th, to beat Zalatoris as the sun melted over the Pacific. “Still a lot of emotions going through my head, but to get that first win is definitely a relief.”

With his first victory, List moves to fourth in the FedExCup. It’s been a long and winding road.

At the outset of his career, in 2007, List made four PGA Tour starts and missed the cut in all four. The next year he played in the European Tour’s Russian Open, and he missed that cut, too.

But he won on the Hooters Tour in 2009 and led the driving distance stats when he made it to the Korn Ferry Tour, where he won in 2012. He won again on that circuit at the 2020 Korn Ferry Challenge at TPC Sawgrass, beating Zalatoris.

List also made the FedExCup Playoffs the past six years running, which speaks to his consistency. He may not have won but he has picked up plenty of prize money. But he did wonder if he would ever win on the PGA Tour. “You wonder if it’s ever going to be your turn,” he said.

When it was, Zalatoris missing his birdie attempt to extend the playoff - his ball veering left of the cup, just as his birdie try from the same line had at the end of regulation - List had done it.

There will be those who say that List was destined to win. He has always hit there ball miles from the tee, but stats confirm  that his big weakness is on the greens. Ahead of the Farmers Insurance Opern, List was ranked 208th in Strokes Gained: Putting. And that is never going to get the job done.

Something had to change, and List knew it.

“I hired a new putting coach in the offseason, Stephen Sweeney,” he said. “He's down in Florida, phenomenal guy. We got together in December, and he was pretty much expecting me to have the worst stroke ever and yips. He got down there, he's like, ‘Listen, you're doing what you're trying to do really well; it's just not what you should be doing.’

“He opened up my eyes to the proper technique,” List continued, “and I worked my butt off.”

List led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting in the first round at Torrey Pines. In the final round, he made four straight front-nine birdies and again gained strokes on the field with his putter. The power hitter won it with his other scoring clubs, too. His holed sand shot on No. 12 set him up for a big finish, his curling, right-to-left birdie putt on No. 18 at the end of regulation.

And after a nearly two-hour range session while others battled on TV, List’s playoff pitching wedge to within inches won it with precious little daylight remaining. He could have sneezed the ball into the hole, which was almost too bad, because while everyone has been focused on Rahm and Patrick Cantlay - with whom List shares a coach, Jamie Mulligan - and the others, List has quietly become an OK putter. He’s quietly done a lot of things.


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Tags: PGA Tour european tour dp world tour


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