Hovland hangs on to become repeat winner of World Challenge

Dec 4, 2022, 12:19 AM | Updated: 3:46 pm
Viktor Hovland, of Norway, right, shares a laugh with Tiger Woods, after winning the Hero World Cha...

Viktor Hovland, of Norway, right, shares a laugh with Tiger Woods, after winning the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

              Viktor Hovland, of Norway, right, shares a laugh with Tiger Woods, after winning the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Norway,'s Viktor Hovland, right, talks to Tiger Woods, after winning the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Norway,'s Viktor Hovland, right, holds the trophy after winning the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Tiger Woods stands next to the trophy after Norway,'s Viktor Hovland won the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Tiger Woods, left, and Viktor Hovland, of Norway, pose for a photo after he winning the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Justin Thomas, of the United States, right, checks the wind direction at the third fairway during the final round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Justin Thomas, of the United States, left, hits for par at the third green as Cameron Young, of the United States, looks on during the final round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Xander Schauffele, of the United States, watches his shot on the third tee during the final round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Scottie Scheffler, of the United States, chips onto the third green during the final round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Scottie Scheffler, of the United States, watches his shot on the first tee during the final round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Norway's Viktor Hovland, left, celebrates with his caddy after winning the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Viktor Hovland, of Norway, chips onto the third green during the final round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club, in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Tommy Fleetwood, of England, watches his shot from the first tee during the final round of the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
            
              Norway,´s Viktor Hovland celebrates winning the Hero World Challenge PGA Tour at the Albany Golf Club in New Providence, Bahamas, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Viktor Hovland led by four shots at the turn. No one got closer to him than two shots during the final nine holes at the Hero World Challenge.

It sounds easy. Far from it.

Hovland pulled a 6-iron from an awkward lie into the water on the 18th hole and had to make a 20-foot bogey putt for a 3-under 69 to secure victory Sunday, allowing him to join tournament host Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of this holiday event.

“I made it a little more exciting, I guess,” Hovland said.

A year ago, the 25-year-old from Norway rallied from six shots behind on the final day with a 66 to win. That was fun. Far more stressful was leading the entire way at Albany, even when it looked to everyone else that it was a Bahamas breeze.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, whose three-putt double bogey on the ninth hole left him five shots behind, stayed in the game with four birdies on the back nine that gave him a fleeting chance, two shots back playing the 18th.

Hovland faced a 6-iron from the slope above a bunker, with water left of the green. The face of the club closed on impact, and the ball headed left into the hazard.

“Basically just do anything else but hit it in the water,” Hovland said. “So as soon as that happened, I was pretty frustrated. But I knew that he didn’t have a gimme par, so if I can wedge up there close, I can still make a putt and win the tournament. And if not, he still has to make a par to force me to a playoff.

“But it was a lot more stressful than it should have been.”

Scheffler put his approach into the sandy area, and his chip ran over the cup with too much speed, about 10 feet by the hole. If Hovland missed his bogey putt, Scheffler would have that putt for a playoff.

Hovland ended the suspense. Scheffler missed what became a meaningless putt and shot 68 to finish two shots behind, a runner-up to Hovland for the second straight year.

“I said earlier in the week that I don’t like finishing second,” Scheffler said. “It’s not a good feeling right now. But I’m proud of the fight.”

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.

“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.”

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 end the year at No. 1 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. He had to play a pitching wedge over a 20-foot dune, an 8-iron to the green 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.

There were other challengers over the final two hours, just not for long.

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 15th.

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.

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.”

___

AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) drives past Chicago Sky forward Candace Parker (...
Associated Press

Griner’s return, free agency raises charter flight concerns

Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA this summer after being traded in a dramatic prisoner swap in December with Russia has collided with free agency, creating potential travel complications for the league out of safety concerns for her. If Griner, who is a free agent but has said she’ll return to Phoenix, needs special travel […]
22 hours ago
Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton drives past Charlotte Hornets' Terry Rozier during the second half...
Associated Press

Bucks beat Hornets 124-115 for 5th consecutive victory

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Khris Middleton is making the most of his limited minutes as he works his way back from injuries that kept him from playing for much of the season. Middleton scored 18 points and sparked a third-quarter run that put the Milwaukee Bucks ahead for good as they beat the Charlotte Hornets 124-115 […]
22 hours ago
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, right, slaps the ball away from Chicago Bulls forward DeMar...
Associated Press

Leonard, Powell lead Clippers past Bulls, 108-103

CHICAGO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points and Norman Powell added 27 to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Chicago Bulls 108-103 on Tuesday night. Paul George added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who’ve won six of seven. Nikola Vucevic had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Bulls, […]
22 hours ago
Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis (3) defends a shot by New York Knicks' RJ Barrett (9) during the ...
Associated Press

James has triple-double, leads Lakers past Knicks in OT

NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James will soon be the NBA’s top scorer, though that was never his focus. He’s also one of the game’s leading passers, and combining the two — possibly better than anyone ever — is what really makes him proud. “I didn’t get to this point in my career by thinking […]
22 hours ago
Kansas forward K.J. Adams Jr. (24) dunks the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketba...
Associated Press

No. 8 Kansas avenges earlier loss to No. 7 K-State, 90-78

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jalen Wilson remembers every slight. Every criticism. Every chip that’s landed on his shoulder. You can bet the Kansas forward remembers watching Kansas State fans storm the court after beating the Jayhawks. So with revenge on their mind, Wilson and his pals jumped on the seventh-ranked Wildcats in the rematch Tuesday […]
22 hours ago
Ottawa Senators Drake Batherson (19) moves in on Montreal Canadiens' goaltender Jake Allen as Canad...
Associated Press

Tkachuk’s late goal lifts Senators over Canadiens 5-4

MONTREAL (AP) — Brady Tkachuk scored at 18:41 of the third period to lift the Ottawa Senators to a 5-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night. The surging Senators will head into the NHL All-Star break with a sense of accomplishment, having extended their winning streak to four games. “It was big, I […]
22 hours ago
Hovland hangs on to become repeat winner of World Challenge