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Twice is nice for Viktor Hovland at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba.
The 24-year-old Norwegian native became the first player to defend his title in the tournament’s 15-year history and the first to defend any title on the PGA Tour since Brooks Koepka in 2019 at the PGA Championship.
Hovland signed for a 4-under 67 on Sunday at El Camaleon Golf Club in Riviera Maya, south of Cancun, and coasted to a 4-stroke victory over Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz.
“Whenever I get into a flow where I’ve got my numbers dialed in and I’m swinging it good, it’s just kind of point and shoot,” Hovland said.
The winner of the 2019 Puerto Rico Open, Hovland did the majority of his damage on the par 5’s, making birdies on his first 11 par-5s in the tournament. He took control of the tournament on Saturday when he birdied half the holes en route to shooting a career-best 62 and grabbed a two-stroke lead.
Hovland, who represented Team Europe at the Ryder Cup in September, sucked any of the drama out of the final round with birdies at the two par 5s on the front side and drained a 35-foot birdie putt at the ninth, celebrating with a fist pump as he stretched his lead to four strokes. He also got up and down three times when he missed the green. Hovland added a 20-foot birdie at the 11th hole and two more at the 14th and 17th to counter a couple of miscues on the back nine – bogeys at Nos. 12 and 15. But none of his closest competitors mounted a charge until it was too late. Ortiz, a native of Guadalajara, closed with five birdies on the back nine to shoot 66 and recorded his third consecutive top-10 finish in the event. Justin Thomas was in last place after a 3-over par start through nine holes, but played the remaining 63 holes in 21 under to finish alone in third at 18-under 266.
Hovland finished with a 72-hole tournament record of 23-under 261 and notched his third career PGA Tour title and fourth overall, including a win in June at the European Tour’s BMW International Open.
Hovland’s most pressure-packed moment happened before the tournament even began when he loaned his Ping G425 driver to Danny Lee on the practice range. Lee took a mighty swing and shattered the shaft.
“I don’t know where it snapped or how he snapped it, but I just look up after he hit the shot and it was in pieces,” said Hovland, who had a backup driver head, but didn’t have a backup shaft.
Hovland ended up borrowing the same model driver with a slightly different shaft, half an inch shorter, from competitor James Hahn.
“That thing’s been amazing,” Hovland said. “As soon as I just hit a few shots with it, and I actually went to a course not too far away from here and tested it on the golf course, as soon as I saw it just go pretty straight, it wasn’t much of an issue.”
In the second round, Hovland also overcame a bad break when he pushed his approach at the first hole, his 10th of the day, and it hit a sprinkler head and bounded out of bounds for his only double bogey of the tournament.
“What I’m most happy with,” Hovland said, “is just the fact that all those things happened and I didn’t freak out or anything.”