DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Viktor Hovland handled the toughest stretch at Muirfield Village and delivered three late putts to earn the Memorial in a playoff game against Denny McCarthy on Sunday.
Hovland closed with a 2-under 70 on another brutal test on a course baked in the sun all week, forcing the playoffs with a 30-foot birdie on the 17th – the only one on that hole in the final round – and saving par from behind the 18th green.
Returning to 18th in the playoffs, Hovland barely entered the front of the green, about 60 feet from the back pin, and hit two putts while drilling a 7-foot putt.
It was his fourth PGA Tour victory and his first on American soil, this one with a winner’s check for $3.6 million and a handshake from host Jack Nicklaus. The Norwegian’s previous victories were in Mexico twice and in Puerto Rico.
It was a crushing defeat for McCarthy, one of the purest putters on the PGA Tour. He showed his touch by saving crucial pars and playing bogey-free on a day when the average score was just under 75. His only bogey came on the 18th hole – twice.
McCarthy had a one-shot lead when he missed the 18th fairway left, launched onto the fairway and narrowly missed a 25-foot putt for the win. In the playoffs, his shot from the rough right returned from the green 50 yards out. He pitched 12 feet and the putt caught the left edge and swung away.
“I’m heartbroken right now,” McCarthy said, emotion in his voice after his closest call to winning on the PGA Tour on his 156th attempt.
It was a final day where so many went upside down from the 22 players who had been separated by three shots at the start of the round.
Rory McIlroy chipped in below the fourth green for a birdie and had the lead on the front nine, but he gave way too many shots from the back – three bogeys in a row – for a 75 that took him out of the image.
Scottie Scheffler closed with a 67 and finished third and missed the playoffs by one stroke, remarkable considering he made the cut on the count. The world No.1 player has finished no worse than 12th in 13 starts this year.
But what a week to forget with the putter.
Scheffler put in a statistically dominant performance from tee to green, hauling in 20.7 shots from the field in this category. But he lost 8.5 strokes on the ground in his putting. That might be the best context — it was nearly a 20-stroke differential putting out McCarthy, and Scheffler finished a stroke behind.
“I think a little bit of my struggles with the putt probably helped me elevate my ball striking, just because if I’m trying to compete here…with the putts not going in, I have to hit really well. And I was able to do that,” Scheffler said.
“Maybe people ask me if I put in a lot more because I hit so well,” he said. “When you hit multiple greens, it’s not easy to hit every putt. I mean, if I put my best this week, I would have won by an insane number of shots.
That belonged to Hovland, who joined McCarthy (70) at 7-under 281.
Hovland, who moves up to No. 5 in the world, didn’t feel like he did anything special. He had better weeks hitting the ball. His lowest round all week was 69. But he was the only player to beat par all four rounds.
“I played smart. I played my game. And I came this time,” Hovland said.
He was particularly strong at the end. The bottom three have been the toughest in Muirfield Village all week. Hovland birdied two of three on Saturday to enter the mix, and he played them 1 under on Sunday to advance to the playoffs.
Si Woo Kim, who played in the last group with McIlroy, had a 73 to finish alone in fourth. Jordan Spieth was in the group another shot back.
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