Viktor Hovland overcame a trip to the water on the 18th hole to hold off playing partner Scottie Scheffler and defend the Hero World Challenge.
While Hovland was looking to defend the title, Scheffler had the incentive of knowing victory would see him move above Rory McIlroy to the top of the world rankings.
Hovland had a target on his back all day in Albany, but he fended off the chasers and holed a big putt on 18 after dunking his second in the water to secure a two-shot victory.
It was a case of deja vu, as Hovland held off the challenge of Scheffler to claim the title 12 months ago.
In securing the win, Hovland became the first player to defend the Hero World Challenge since Tiger Woods – who now hosts the event – in 2007.
Asked how it feels to get over the winning line, Hovland said: “It is nerve-racking. I was leading by five after the turn and you are never that comfortable.
“I did not play all that great on the back nine, but it was good enough.”
- 1. Viktor Hovland, 16-under
- 2. Scottie Scheffler, 14-under
- 3. Cameron Young, 12-under
- T4. Justin Thomas, 11-under
- T4. Xander Schauffele, 11-under
On joining Woods as a two-time winner, Hovland said: “I am just pleased he was not playing the last two years!
“To win his tournament is very special.
“The short career that I have had, I have tended to play very well at the start and the end of the year.
“The goal is to try and keep playing like this through the year.
“It is fun to end the year with a win and sit on the couch for a couple of weeks with a smile on my face.”
The Norwegian made a fine start with birdies on three and six. But his start was eclipsed by Scheffler who birdied two, four and eagled six to get into a share of the lead.
Hovland’s short game has not always been a strength, but it is an area he has worked hard on and he showed the benefit of that with a deft pitch on the seventh to secure a birdie.
Scheffler kept pushing, and things went badly awry on the ninth as he made a double-bogey seven to drop five shots back of Hovland.
The Masters champion has a temperament that allows him to shrug off setbacks and he made birdies on 11, 14, 15 and 16 to get within two of Hovland.
Hovland has shown a preference for slower greens and the pace at Albany suited him, as was demonstrated with a brilliant lag putt on 17 which enabled him to step on the 18th tee with a two-shot lead.
The 18th at Albany does not seem to suit Hovland’s eye, he bogeyed it in the final round last year and did the same on Saturday.
On Sunday, he sent his tee shot into the rough on the right and pulled a bad stance, after which he tugged his second shot and it landed on the rocks before dropping into the water.
He composed himself and was able to get up and down for a bogey, which was enough to secure the win as Scheffler was unable to hole his birdie effort from the waste area – albeit it shaved the cup.
Xander Schauffele briefly threatened to come out of the pack and blindside Hovland and Scheffler, but a bogey on the par-five 15th ended his charge as he finished at 11-under.
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