Viktor Hovland goes Back-to-back at Albany
Viktor Hovland has done it again. A year after taking home the trophy in his first appearance at the Hero World Challenge, the 25-year-old Norwegian won it again, capturing the 2022 Hero title by two strokes over Scottie Scheffler.
Hovland entered Sunday’s final round with a three-stroke lead over Scheffler – also last year’s runner-up – and battled his playing partner right down to the 18th hole while also holding off a handful of other challengers on a frenetic Sunday afternoon at Albany, Bahamas.
With the victory, Hovland became the first back-to-back winner of the Hero World Challenge since Tiger Woods did it in 2006 and 2007. By the time the tournament host met Hovland on the 18th green to congratulate him and present him the trophy as the sun set Sunday afternoon, the stress of a challenging day had long since faded from the champion’s face.
“Scottie just had a phenomenal start and kind of pushed me to keep going,” Hovland said. “I think I was three-under through five holes and I was only leading by one. I was thinking before the day started, if I get off to a nice start, I can really build a good lead. So hats off to him, he played some great golf.
“Then kind of middle portion of the round I just kept making pars and kind of put it to him to try to come back. Yeah, it was a little up and down overall today, but glad to finish it out.”
Hovland’s 16-under-par score of 272 can be largely attributed to his putting, especially on the weekend. As he worked to hold off Scheffler, Cameron Young (third, 12-under-par 276) and Xander Schauffele (fourth, 11-under-par 277) – each of who mounted a challenge Sunday afternoon – Hovland did his best work on the greens. He putted just 23 times Saturday and 24 times Sunday.
Fittingly, after hitting his second shot in the water on the par-4 18th hole in the final round and finding himself on the putting surface lying four, he drained a 20-foot putt to eliminate any chance Scheffler had to force a playoff. It was just his second bogey of the day, but came with a huge sigh of relief as it sealed the victory.
So what was Hovland thinking after dunking his approach shot on 18?
“Not many positive thoughts,” he admitted. “When you’re standing there with a two?shot lead, it’s like that’s the last thing you can do. Basically just do anything else but hit it in the water on the second shot. So as soon as that happened, I was pretty frustrated. But I knew that (Scheffler) 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.”
Hovland had separated himself from the field Saturday by shooting 64, the lowest round of the tournament.