Posted August 20, 2023 in "Watts" In The Bag by Tom Brassell
By The Associated Press
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. (AP) — Viktor Hovland delivered the best round of his career at the right time, making birdie on all but two holes on the back nine Sunday for a 9-under 61 to break the course record at Olympia Fields and storm past Scottie Scheffler and Matt Fitzpatrick to win the BMW Championship.
What looked to be a two-man race between Scheffler and Fitzpatrick turned into a one-man show by Hovland. He headed to the back nine four shots behind. In the end, Scheffler and Fitzpatrick had to hole out from the fairway to catch him.
Both closed with a 66, a score that normally would be enough to win on a day like this. They had to settle for runner-up to Hovland, who won for the second time this year and never looked better doing it.
Hovland only had one putt longer than 15 feet on the back nine. He closed with birdies on the 17th and 18th, the two hardest holes, finishing with an approach over the bunker to 6 feet on the 18th for one last birdie.
“That has to be the best round I’ve ever played,” Hovland said. “Given the circumstances — a playoff event, this golf course — the way I played the last holes was pretty special.”
Turns out the drama came from everywhere else.
Jordan Spieth bogeyed his last two holes for a 71 and was on the verge of falling out of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup who make it to East Lake next week for the Tour Championship. But then Denny McCarthy made three bogeys over his last seven holes to fall out.
The cruelest of all was Sahith Theegala. He ran off three straight birdies through the 17th hole and was projected to be in the top 30. But he took bogey on the last hole, while Patrick Cantlay in his group made birdie. They tied for 15th, and that bogey-birdie combination was enough to end Theegala’s season.
Sepp Straka wound up getting the 30th spot by nine points over Theegala.
Xander Schauffele did enough right in his round of 68 to tie for eighth, earning enough money to narrowly earn the sixth and final automatic spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Schauffele was certain to get one of the six captain’s picks, but his finish moved PGA champion Brooks Koepka from No. 5 to No. 7 in the Ryder Cup standings.
U.S. captain Zach Johnson makes his six picks in nine days.
Scheffler had six birdies and never fell out of the lead until late in the day, though he was haunted by three putts from 6 feet or closer than he missed over the final eight holes.
The world’s No. 1 player missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th that would have tied him with Hovland. On the next hole, Scheffler’s 20-foot birdie putt ran 4 1/2 feet by the hole, and he missed the par putt to fall two shots behind.
For all the possibilities, Fitzpatrick was the only player who worked his way into the top 30 who will head to Atlanta for the FedEx Cup finale. He started at No. 40 and moved up to No. 10.
“Can’t do anything about 61. I did just see Viktor — I called him a little (expletive),” Fitzpatrick said with a grin. “But for me, just really pleased again that I played really well, final round in contention with world No. 1, and I didn’t lose it. Someone else came from behind and won it.”
Scheffler, in a small consolation, is the No. 1 seed at East Lake for the second straight year. That means he starts the tournament at 10-under par, two shots ahead of Hovland.
Rory McIlroy, who shot 66 and finished fourth at the BMW Championship, is the No. 3 seed, followed by Jon Rahm and Lucas Glover.
Check out “Watts” in Viktor Hovland’s bag below.
Driver: Ping G425 LST (9 degrees @8.4) – Shaft: Fujikura Speeder 661
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth Plus (15 degrees) – Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 7 X
Utility: Titleist U505 (3) – Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI Hybrid 85 X
Irons: Ping i210 (4-PW) – Shafts: KBS Tour V 120 X (4-PW)
Putter: Ping PLD DS 72
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Grips: Golf Pride MCC