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Viktor Hovland captures BMW Championship with record 61

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Viktor Hovland captures BMW Championship with record 61

The Norwegian was 133rd in final-round scoring for the season, but made history with a come-from-behind win

    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Viktor Hovland and his caddie, Shay Knight, had a tough conversation last week, Hovland having shot a final-round 69 for a T13 at the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

    At 133rd for the season in Final Round Scoring Average on the PGA TOUR, the young Norwegian felt he wasn’t doing Sundays very well.

    Well, so much for all that.

    Hovland made 10 birdies and one bogey for a course-record 61 – including a 7-under-par 28 on the back nine – and a come-from-behind, two-shot victory over Scottie Scheffler (66) and Matt Fitpatrick (66) at the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields.

    Viktor Hovland's Round 4 highlights from the BMW Championship

    “To win at a place like this and amongst the best players in the world, it's pretty cool,” said Hovland, whose fifth PGA TOUR win moved him from 7th to 2nd in the FedExCup. “And to do it that way, making seven birdies the last nine holes …”

    It was the lowest finish by a winner on TOUR this season, Hovland’s career low, and the lowest final-round score in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs. He made 12 threes in what was close to a flawless round: 12/14 fairways (he led the field for the week at 43/56), 16/18 greens hit, first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, 2nd in Strokes Gained: Putting.

    Scheffler, who started the day tied at the top with Fitzpatrick, three ahead of Hovland and Rory McIlroy, birdied two of the first three holes, three of the first six, and led for most of the day. The last five holes, however, featured a dramatic reversal. Scheffler played them in 1 over par, while Hovland, playing up ahead, blitzed them in 4 under.

    Viktor Hovland's stunning back-nine leads him to victory at BMW Championship

    “He was on automatic,” said caddie Knight. “He’s such an aggressive player, and when he’s on, he’s got no fear. He tries to birdie every hole. He’s been playing well the last couple weeks. He played well last week, but Sunday wasn’t great. He kind of feels that Sundays haven’t been his best, and we spoke about that last week and he did what he did today. It was super-impressive.”

    McIlroy shot 66 playing alongside Hovland and felt like he was stuck in neutral.

    “I sort of realized around like 14, 15 something pretty special was happening,” McIlroy said.

    Viktor Hovland's best soundbites during interviews

    Knight, too, sensed some magic in the air.

    “Probably 14 when he hit that 8-iron out of the rough and knocked it to a foot,” he said. “That was when I thought it was going to be one of those days where things happen for us.”

    Far from lamenting his close call, Fitzpatrick merely laughed it off.

    “Yeah, played great,” he said. “Can't do anything about 61. I did just see Viktor, I called him a little s---. 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.”

    Hovland is still only 25, but one of the themes of this season has been maturity. Some of that is, experience, and a lot has resulted from his work with Joseph Mayo, who teaches at The Summit Club for Discovery Land Company in Las Vegas, and who urged Hovland to throttle back.

    “I’m watching this kid hit his ball into places where Harry Houdini couldn’t get it up and down,” Mayo said after Hovland won the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday. He brought in DP World Tour player and statistician Edoardo Molinari for backup.

    “Dodo (Molinari) said a great iron player is short-siding himself 15% of the time,” Mayo said. “Viktor was twice that. You can’t outrun that. I showed him the data, and he said, ‘Wow.’”

    Hovland had another realization at the FedEx St. Jude at TPC Southwind last week. He got off to such a sluggish start with a first-round 72 that one of his friends screen-grabbed the leaderboard showing him in near last place. But he rebounded with scores of 64-65-69 to finish T13.

    “I still felt like I was in contention on Sunday, an outside chance,” he said at Olympia Fields. “I think that was just a great reminder that OK, I don't have to play perfect golf to be up there.”

    Viktor Hovland | Swing Theory | Driver, iron, wedge

    Thus freed up, he nearly achieved perfection. His 61 at Olympia Fields on Sunday was two better than the next lowest round, 63s by Russell Henley (T8) and Tom Kim (T10), and made the 66s shot by Scheffler, Fitzpatrick and McIlroy seem pedestrian by comparison.

    Although Hovland hadn’t been the story all week, he’d bided his time.

    “Joe and I have talked to each other a lot about that, just because you're seven shots (behind) with the weekend to go doesn't mean you're out of it,” he said. “Just got to make good decisions, always just plug along, and if you're right there, you might just snatch it and win.”

    Now comes the TOUR Championship at East Lake, where under the FedExCup Starting Strokes format Hovland will start two behind No. 1 Scheffler. After that it’s off to the Ryder Cup in Rome.

    “He just keeps his foot on the pedal,” said McIlroy, who will be one of his teammates.

    It was an apt analogy at the BMW, where Hovland had raced to the checkered flag in a finish that left all those who saw it gasping for air.

    Viktor Hovland meets Evans Scholar recipient after hole-in-one at BMW

    Cameron Morfit is a Staff Writer for the PGA TOUR. He has covered rodeo, arm-wrestling, and snowmobile hill climb in addition to a lot of golf. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.

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