DUBLIN, Ohio — Within the past year, Viktor Hovland decided it was time for a change. That was when he decided to place his trust in Joseph Mayo to be his instructor.
While both had known each other for a long time, but now Mayo would be out there for Hovland, and the coach picked up on a change which Hovland needed to make.
It was time for an improvement in course management.
“Sometimes bad breaks are going to happen,” Hovland said, “but when you watch it happen too many times or too often, (Mayo) suggested, basically, ‘Hey, I think our course management or our strategy is not very good.’
“tThat’s when he reached out to Edoardo Molinari, who does my stats, and basically, they just crunched some numbers and basically saw the stats kind of tell the same story.”
Now, on courses which play firm and fast as Muirfield Village Golf Club did this week, it was less about hunting pin placements and more about being conservative and patient, as he did last month during a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship.
Hovland was able to secure a victory in a playoff Sunday over Denny McCarthy at the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday, moving to fourth in the FedExCup points standings and fifth in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Although this was Hovland’s fourth PGA Tour win and eighth as a professional, it was his first in the continental United States, and his first in one of the Tour’s newly-created ‘designated’ events. He’d previously won in Mexico (twice) and Puerto Rico, on top of two Hero World Challenges and four DP World Tour events.
“Obviously I feel like I’ve won a decent amount of tournaments for only being a pro for four years,” Hovland said. “However, they have been at low-key places, resort courses, and abroad, so it feels really cool to get my first win on the U.S. soil, especially at a tournament like this where this week the golf course is arguably harder than most major championship golf courses we play and the crowds were amazing out there.
“It felt like a major.”
Hovland could have pushed the panic button, when his eighth-hole chip did not advance past the rough, and the same easily could have been said after a second consecutive bogey, but instead he regrouped with two quick birdies and kept his game together heading to the 17th hole, where he was the only golfer in the field to make birdie, converting from 27 feet out.
Denny McCarthy led for much of the afternoon and was seeking his first PGA Tour victory. McCarthy had held his nerve all day, making birdie on the second hole and building on that score with two more circles on the seventh and eighth holes.
From there McCarthy faced several challenging putts — testing both his game and nerve — which he drilled.
As he went to the 72nd hole, he did so as the only golfer with a bogey-free round, a streak spanning 28 holes.
Hovland had already parred out and sat beside the media interview area, waiting to see if there will be a playoff.
When McCarthy missed the 18th fairway, he had to pitch out and then after his third shot, missed a 12-foot par putt which would have secured victory.
Even so, he had another chance on the playoff hole, where he missed the fairway right, saw his ball roll off the front of the green to 50 yards away, giving Hovland a putt for the win, which fell short.
McCarthy then lipped out his par putt, but Hovland made his, securing his fourth career PGA Tour title.
After emotional interviews with CBS and Golf Channel, things did not get any easier when McCarthy spoke with assembled media.
“My putter was pretty hot for most of the week,” McCarthy concluded. “It kept me in it when I needed to make some saves coming in, but I also learned that I can hit a lot of really tough demanding golf shots. I’ve been putting a lot of work in and a lot of the shots I hit this week, that work showed on a really tough demanding place like this. I hit a lot of really good golf shots and I’ve got a lot of positives to take from this week.
“I like hard golf courses. I like championship golf. I’m a very fierce competitor, so when the lights are the brightest and everyone’s watching these elevated events and major golf championships, I love that. As much as it sucks right now to finish runner-up here this week, I love being in that situation. That’s what I play golf for.
“So with a couple majors around the corner, another elevated event coming up, I’m excited about where my game is and looking forward to having another opportunity to win a tournament.”
While several other golfers self-destructed throughout the weekend, Hovland minimized his mistakes and never scored lower than bogey on any hole.
Hovland also was the only golfer in the field to post four under-par scores.
“I didn’t have the short game (before) that I have right now, so when you do end up on the downslope and you need to be able to spin the ball or slow the ball down, I just couldn’t do that,” said Hovland. “This week I told myself that when I’m out of position just play for the fatter part of the green and if I miss the green, I still have a shot where I can roll the ball up or slow the ball down enough to get it close to the pin. I knew this was kind of going to be a competition of not making any double bogeys or making too many mistakes.”
Hovland joins Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm as the now three players who have won on Tour in each of the last four seasons.
Scottie Scheffler had a banner week in almost every way, placing first in Strokes Gained: Tee To Green with 20.692, which according to statistician Justin Ray ranks second behind Vijay Singh (Deutsche Bank 2004) in the 20 years the PGA Tour has tracked the metric.
Additionally, the world’s No. 1 ranked player went minus-8.650 in Strokes Gained: Putting, ranking him last in the field. Ray further mentioned that there have been 309 players that have lost at least eight strokes putting, but Scheffler is the first one to finish in the top 20.
Scheffler’s final round 67, was three shots better than anyone else in the field.
“I can start feeling the ball coming off the blade again, which is good,” Scheffler said. “Sometimes those putts go in and sometimes they don’t. I’m pretty frustrated with it right now, but I fought hard. I never gave up.”
Andrew Putnam (T5), Adam Schenk (T7) and Lee Hodges (T12) qualified for the Open Championship with their high finishes, claiming the three spots allotted to top finishers of the Memorial Tournament who previously were not in the field.
Prior to the final round, Collin Morikawa withdrew with back spasms; it was his first WD in a Tour event.
“We were doing some like reflex stuff, trying to reach down and try to pick something up like quick and low, went after it weird,” he said. “I think it’s the first tournament I’ve ever withdrawn from in my entire life. It sucks because this is a tournament that I love. I’ve played well and put ourselves in contention, but I have to look out for myself and got to be smart.”
A CHANGE OR TWO IS GOING TO COME
According to the Columbus Dispatch‘s Rob Oller, there is a strong chance that Jack Nicklaus will tinker with the par-3 16th hole for a second consecutive year.
It was a hole that Jason Day was caught on a hot mic calling a “stupid hole,” one that Nicklaus seemed to agree with on the broadcast. Jordan Spieth offered a similar critique.
When Oller asked Nicklaus about the hole Sunday morning, he guessed that he would change the hole.
“I don’t want guys walking around here saying, ‘What a great 17-hole golf course,’ ” Nicklaus responded. “There’s nothing wrong with that hole if we have the (normal wind) conditions, but if we have the wrong conditions the hole isn’t good. I’m trying to make this golf tournament the best I can make it, and if that means making an adjustment, we’ll make an adjustment. I have no issue with that at all.”
After the tournament ended, Nicklaus expanded his remarks to say he would adjust No. 16 next year and make it a more forgiving hole.
The final three holes were the toughest all week and Hovland’s winning score of 281 was the highest by a Tour winner since Scheffler won the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard with a 282.
Next year’s Memorial Tournament will be played on a to-be-determined date as Dave Shedloski’s Golf Digest report stated that as the 2023-24 schedule is placed, there event may be pushed back one week, which would be the final tournament contested before the U.S. Open.
What is known is that Juli Inkster and Tom Weiskopf (posthumously) will be next year’s Memorial Tournament honorees.
- Viktor Hovland -7 (wins on first playoff hole)
Denny McCarthy -7
Scottie Scheffler -6
Si Woo Kim -5
T5. Andrew Putnam -4
T5. Jordan Spieth -4
T7. Rory McIlroy -3
T7. Adam Schenk -3
T9. Matt Fitzpatrick -2
T9. Rickie Fowler -2
T9. Adam Scott -2