Viktor Hovland, who has come up short in several big events this year, including runner-up two weeks ago in the PGA Championship, finally cashed in on Sunday at the Memorial Tournament by defeating Denny McCarthy with a par on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Hovland, 25, sank a seven-foot putt on the 18th hole at Muirfield Village Golf Club to win his fourth PGA Tour title after McCarthy missed his par-saving attempt from 14 feet—his second bogey on the home hole in a span of 30 minutes. Hovland now has wins in each of his four years as a pro and won for the first time on the US mainland after a victory in Puerto Rico and two in Mexico.
“I’ve been playing well, but I’ve just been trying to stay within myself and play my own game,” said the World No. 7 from Norway, who also finished T-3 at the Players and T-7 at the Masters this year. “Maybe before I would have fired at some pins that I shouldn’t, but I played smart and came up clutch this time. It feels even better after a few close calls the last few months.”
Of the the Australians, Adam Scott finished tied ninth after a 71 left him at two under, while none of his countrymen had made the cut. New Zealand’s Ryan Fox was two over par.
Hovland birdied two of his last four holes in regulation—including a 28-footer at the par-17th that was the only birdie at the long par 4 all day—and shot a two-under 70 to finish at seven-under 281. It was the fourth-highest winning score in Memorial history and the highest since Hale Irwin won with the same total in 1985 as Muirfield Village, firm and fast, put up a fight that had players comparing it to a major.
Which perhaps was why Hovland eventually emerged with the victory.
McCarthy, 30, led for much of the afternoon and had a putt for his first tour win after finding the rough left of the fairway at 18, but he missed from 23 feet for his only bogey and also came in with a 70. He then missed the fairway on the right in the playoff and again failed to reach the green in regulation. Hovland, meanwhile, drove 30 yards past McCarthy and in play and put his second shot on the green 51 feet left of the hole. His birdie try came up well short, but he managed to coax in the second in the right side of the cup for a victory worth $3.6 million in the designated event hosted by Jack Nicklaus.
Both men began the day one stroke behind a trio of leaders, including World No. 3 Rory McIlroy. But it was McCarthy, who finished T-5 at Muirfield Village last year, who leaped ahead by going out in 33 to lead by as many as two strokes for most of the day. A series of gutsy par saves kept him ahead until the last hole. The Maryland native still recorded his best finish on the PGA Tour.
“I battled really hard,” McCarthy said, fighting back his emotions. “Heart broken right now, but a lot of positives to take from this week. Played really well and obviously my putter kept me in it when I was a little shaky. I hit a lot of good golf shots this week.”
McIlroy briefly separated himself from the tight-bunched leaderboard when he pitched in for birdie from well left of the green at the par-3 fourth hole to reach seven under, but he soon was passed by McCarthy, and a host of others, as the swing flaws he had been battling the last few months reared up. Bogeys on both par-5 holes on the outward nine hinted at the struggles ahead, and McIlroy could never get untracked in a closing 75 the left him tied for seventh.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” McIlroy said. “I feel a little better about everything compared to where I was a couple weeks ago at Oak Hill. So it’s obviously not the result that I wanted today, but I feel like there was a few more positives than there was a couple weeks ago.”
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler finished third after shooting the low round of the day, a five-under 67 that left him one back at 282. Playing alongside No. 2 Jon Rahm in a marquee pairing of the top-two golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking, Scheffler as been a ball-striking genius this season and dominated tee to green at Muirfield Village. His runner-up finish was his third straight top-five, and since winning the WM Phoenix Open in February, the powerful Texan hasn’t finished worse than T-12.
“I just tried to bring a good attitude coming in,” Scheffler said after making the cut on the number and then shooting a tournament-best nine under on the weekend. “The first two days here were really frustrating. It’s tough. It’s the fourth week in a row. I’m pretty tired. I was in contention at Byron, PGA, and Colonial, and I’m pretty worn out at the moment. So I was just proud of how I showed up this weekend and fought. I hit it so good and I gave myself a chance. Made a few more putts go in, it’s a little different story.”
The Memorial served as an Open Qualifier for the 151st championship next month at Royal Liverpool. The leading three players not already exempt earned a berth, and those spots went to Andrew Putnam (T-5), Adam Schenk (T-7) and Lee Hodges, who was T-12 and won a tiebreaker of David Lipsky via a higher World Ranking.