Norway’s Viktor Hovland birdied seven of the last nine holes to fire a course-record 61 on Sunday and win the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship, the penultimate FedEx Cup playoff event.
The 25-year-old from Oslo made 10 birdies against a lone bogey, shooting 28 on the back nine for a nine-under par total that left him on 17-under 263 after 72 holes at Olympia Fields in suburban Chicago.
“Definitely has to be the best round I’ve ever played,” Hovland said.
“Given the circumstances, playoff round at this golf course and finish the way I did the last nine holes was pretty special.”
World number one Scottie Scheffler of the United States and England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, last year’s US Open winner, fired 66s to share second on 265 with world number two Rory McIlroy fourth on 268 after a 66.
Hovland sank a birdie putt from just beyond six feet at the 18th to break the old course record of 62, set Friday by American Max Homa and matched Saturday by American Sam Burns.
“Obviously I got some great shots, some nice bounces and the putts went in,” Hovland said. “But it wasn’t like I mapped the whole thing out. I was just trying to make the best decision every single shot.”
Hovland, this year’s Memorial winner and PGA Championship runner-up, was four back at the turn but made eight threes and a four on the back side to claim the $3.6 million top prize with a career-low round.
“I wouldn’t say making seven birdies on the back nine is trying to be playing conservative going into the greens,” Hovland said. “It just kind of worked out that way.
“It was more of a mindset thing. I think instead of, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got a chance to win, I need to birdie this hole and this hole to have a chance,’ it was more. ‘What’s the right decision right here right now?’ and then commit to it.”
The top 30 in season points advanced to next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta, Fitzgerald jumping from 40th to 10th to qualify and bumping out American Chris Kirk in the only change of players from last week.
Scheffler took over as season points leader and will start at 10-under next week at East Lake while Hovland, who jumped from seventh to second in points, will start on 8-under, one stroke ahead of McIlroy and two atop reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm, who had led when the week began.
“My ball-striking has just been very consistent this year and my chipping around the green has improved massively,” Hovland said of his season, which also included a victory at the Memorial in June.
“Just makes it so that even when I’m not on my game I can still scrap it around at even par and make it to the weekend.”
The BMW also was the final US qualifying event for next month’s Ryder Cup and the first six spots were decided on points as Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Homa and Xander Schauffele made the squad.
LIV Golf’s Brooks Koepka, the PGA Championship winner ineligible for PGA Tour events, had been in the top six but was nudged out of an automatic qualifier spot by Homa and Schauffele and will need a captain’s pick to make the squad.
US captain Zach Johnson will reveal six captain’s picks on August 29 to complete the squad that will defend the trophy next month against Europe in Italy.
Hovland dropped his approach inches from the hole at the par-5 first and opened with a birdie, added another on a putt from just inside 20 feet at three and birdied the fifth from just outside 15 feet.
After his lone bogey at seven, Hovland tapped in for birdie from three feet at 10, sank a 12-footer to birdie 11 and birdied 12 from just inside five feet.
Hovland put his approach inches from the hole at 14 to set up a birdie, rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-5 15th and another from just inside nine feet at 17 before his closing record-setter.
POST AUTHOR: AFP