04 December 2022: Viktor Hovland capped off a solid week with a two-stroke victory over Scottie Scheffler. The Norwegian enjoyed a slice of the lead or all of it at the end of each round, before joining Tiger Woods (2007) as the only man to have successfully defended the Hero World Challenge title.
Scheffler finished second again, as he did in 2021. The Masters Champion was looking to win the title last week, in a bid to regain the world No.1 ranking from Rory McIlroy. But a 68 in the final round left him two short of Hovland, who also beat him to the Albany title last year.
The winner wrapped up the week with a 69, enough to go 16-under in the rain soaked Bahamian sand. Scheffler ended the week at 14-under with Cameron Young trailing him in third at 12-under. Both Young and Xander Schauffele also made 68 in the final round. Schauffele finished in fourth at 11-under, a shot ahead of Justin Thomas (70).
Hovland, three ahead at the start on Sunday, took his cushion to five as the final pair made the turn. But Scheffler kept asking questions. The American made birdies at the 11th before rolling three straight from the 14th hole to narrow the deficit. Hovland conceded a bogey at the 13th before making amends on the next two holes, but Scheffler took the battle to the 72nd hole.
He was forced to extricate himself from the lip of a fairway bunker with his second shot on the 18th hole. Needing a good approach, Scheffler found the green side bunker to the right and made bogey. Hovland did well in the end to make a tense 20-footer, bogey, just enough to protect his two-shot margin.
“It was a lot more stressful than it should have been,” admitted Hovland, after breaking a year long drought of wins. Even though he finished 15th on the FedEx Cup rankings after making the Tour Championship, it was a tough season by his own high standards.
“There were too many weeks where I just kind of had to grind and get through the round instead of showing up and attacking and feel like I was going to shoot 7, 8 under,” he explained. “It was just too many times where it was, OK, if I play well, maybe I can shoot a couple under.
“That’s been a little frustrating, I feel like I still have some work to do there, but this is obviously a huge step in the right direction.”
Over the weekend, Hovland needed just 23 putts in his Saturday round of 64. It was the best round for any golfer this past week. The putter rescued him on Sunday too, when he needed only 24 to seal victory.