Hovland delivers decisive putts, wins Memorial in playoffs

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Viktor Hovland drove the toughest stretch at Muirfield Village and hit three clutch shots late on to win the Memorial in a tiebreaker over the hapless Denny McCarthy on Sunday.

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Viktor Hovland drove the toughest stretch at Muirfield Village and hit three clutch shots late on to win the Memorial in a tiebreaker over the hapless Denny McCarthy on Sunday.

Hovland closed with a two-under 70 in another brutal test on a course baked all week by sun, forcing the tiebreaker with a 30-footer. birdie the 17th, the only one on that hole in the final round, and saving the par behind the 18th green.

Returning to 18th on the tiebreaker, Hovland barely made it to the front of the green, about 60 feet from the back pin, and hit two shots off a 7-foot par putt.

It was his fourth victory on the PGA Tour and his first on American soil, this time with a $3.6 million winning check and a handshake from host Jack Nicklaus. The Norwegian’s previous victories have been in Mexico twice and 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 bogeyless on a day when the average score was just under 75. His only bogey came on the 18th hole, twice.

McCarthy had a one-stroke lead when he missed the 18th fairway left, tossed down the fairway and narrowly missed a 25-foot putt for the win. In the tiebreaker, his shot from the right side rolled back from the green about 50 yards away. He shot to 12 feet and the putt caught the left edge and spun out.

“I am heartbroken right now,” McCarthy said, emotion in his voice after his closest attempt to win on the PGA Tour was his 156th attempt.

This was a final day where many of the 22 players who were three shots apart at the start of the round went in reverse.

Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ontario, the only Canadian to make the cut, finished tied for 60th with 10 or more.

Rory McIlroy chipped in from just below the fourth green for birdie and had the lead on the front nine, but gave away too many shots to the back (three straight bogeys) for a 75 that put him out of the picture.

Scottie Scheffler closed with a 67 and finished third and missed the tiebreaker by one shot, remarkable considering he made the cut on the number. The world No. 1 player has finished no worse than 12 in his 13 starts this year.

But what a week to forget with the putter.

Scheffler turned in a statistically dominant performance from tee to green, hitting 20.7 on the course in that category. But he lost 8.5 strokes to the course on his putt. This might be the best context: It was a nearly 20-shot difference putting McCarthy out, and Scheffler finished a shot behind.

“I think a little bit of my putting issues have probably helped me improve my hitting of the ball, just because if I’m trying to compete here … without the putters going in, I have to hit it really well. And I’ve been able to do that,” Scheffler said.

“Maybe people ask me about putting a lot more because I’m hitting it so well,” he said. “When you hit a lot of greens, it’s not easy to make all the putts. I mean, if he was putting his best this week, he would have won by a lot of shots.”

That belonged to Hovland, who joined McCarthy (70) at 7-under 281.

Hovland, who moves to No. 5 in the world rankings, didn’t feel like he had done anything special. He’s had better weeks hitting the ball. His lowest round all week was 69. But he was the only player to break par in all four rounds.

“I played smart. I played my game. And I hit the clutch this time,” Hovland said.

It was particularly strong at the end. The last three were the hardest at Muirfield Village all week. Hovland birdied two of the three on Saturday to get into the mix, and played them 1-under on Sunday to get into a tiebreaker.

Si Woo Kim, who played in the last group with McIlroy, had a 73 to finish only fourth. Jordan Spieth was in the group another shot behind.


AP golf: and

Doug Ferguson, Associated Press