Viktor Hovland wins FedExCup with BMW, TOUR Championship heater

Viktor Hovland (J.-D. Mercer/USA Today Sports/Reuters)

ATLANTA – What’s it all about?

With the $18 million FedExCup first-prize bonus gone to human heat advisory Viktor Hovland, whose final-round 63 and five-shot TOUR Championship victory was his second in two weeks (BMW Championship), you wonder. It was a long season, and a lot of golf – 47 tournaments.

It’s not about the money.

“Obviously it’s a lot of cash you’re playing for,” Hovland said. “I mean, it’s in the back of your mind. But I live in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Money goes a long way there. It’s not like I’m spending money out the wazoo every week. I don’t need a lot to be happy.”

Xander Schauffele (final-round 62) birdied seven of the first 12 holes to cut the margin from six to three. Wobbling ever so slightly, Hovland made a 23-foot par putt on 14 and pumped his fist. He birdied 16 to restore a four-shot margin and birdied 17 to push it back to five. It was over.

His fans were delighted. At least two were from Norway; one had settled in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and one in Decatur, Georgia. (Each had married an American.) The guy from Decatur was wearing a Norwegian flag as a cape and talking about Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen having successfully defended his 5,000-meter world championship earlier Sunday.

“We have one athlete in each sport,” the man joked, “but it’s a good one.”

How much did Ingebrigtsen win for gutting it out at the line? It didn’t come up.

“Obviously it’s nice for my family to have that protection,” Hovland continued, “and my, you know, eventual kids, that I’ll have in the future. It’s nice to have that, but it’s not something that drives me, it’s not something that gives me meaning. I find meaning in other places.”

Schauffele’s final-round 62 was good enough to earn him second place | pic by Skysport

What’s it all about, then?

In the end, the meaning of this PGA TOUR season was not money but moments, specifically the ones we didn’t see coming. Studies show 95-98% of our thoughts are ones we’ve had before, but the other 5% or so light us up – surprises and shockers that bring a spritz of dopamine. We love the big plot twist, and East Lake delivered just as the whole season did.

Scottie Scheffler, who had already set a single-season earnings record (north of $21 million), took a two-shot lead with the FedExCup Starting Strokes format and birdied three of his first six holes. But with three bogeys and a triple-bogey at the 15th, he shot an opening 71 and was now one behind.

Golf.com headline: “Scottie Scheffler’s startling implosion opens up $18 million free-for-all.”

Maybe we should have been ready for chaos, because at the BMW, Hovland birdied four of the last five for a course-record 61 to beat Scheffler (1 over in the last five), who had led all day.

Go back further, and Lucas Glover, 43, won the Wyndham Championship to make the FedExCup Playoffs, then won the FedEx St. Jude Championship a week later. He won $1.368 and $3.6 million, respectively. Shocking? Well, yes, but not so much the size of the checks. The yips are a fierce opponent for guys Glover’s age. He was one of just two players in their 40s to win on the PGA TOUR this season (Justin Rose, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am).

Actually, you have to go back further than Glover. This season’s shockers started early.

Danny Willett was 3 1/2 feet from the pin on the 72nd hole of the season-opening Fortinet Championship, nursing a one-shot lead over Max Homa, who was short of the green. Homa pitched in from 33 feet, and Willett three-putted to lose.

Jon Rahm shot 63 to come from seven back and beat Collin Morikawa at The Sentry. It was the biggest final-round comeback on TOUR all season and touched off a stretch in which he won four times, including his second major at the Masters Tournament.

“Like, we’re not thinking if we miss a putt how much it’s going to cost us money-wise,” Rahm said at East Lake, where he never got much going and shot a final-round 74 to finish T18. “No chance. Like, none whatsoever. You’re trying to finish as high as possible.”

Sometimes, when certain players did just that, it seemed too good to be true.

Nick Taylor holed a 72-foot eagle putt to beat Tommy Fleetwood and become the first Canadian to win the RBC Canadian Open in 69 years. Taylor, who also had the highest opening-round score by a winner this season, 75, also earned his first trip to the TOUR Championship.

Keegan Bradley, the favorite son of New England, captured the Travelers Championship, a New England staple on TOUR. He won twice and made his first TOUR Championship since 2018. After a promising start (63) he shot 73 on Sunday to tie for ninth.

Rickie Fowler, Rocket Mortgage ambassador, trailed as he came to the 18th tee at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. But he birdied the hole, then birdied it again in a playoff – shades of the 2015 PLAYERS Championship – to beat Adam Hadwin and Morikawa for his first win in 4 1/2 years.

At the windy Genesis Scottish Open, Rory McIlroy, trailing by one, birdied the par-3 17th hole, where others were having trouble holding the green. Then came his 202-yard 2-iron on 18, dead into the gale, that held its line and stopped 10 1/2 feet from the pin to set up the win.

“Probably going to be up there with one of the best shots I’ll hit in my career,” said McIlroy.

Scotland’s own Robert MacIntyre had made his own all-world birdie on 18 before McIlroy beat him, so if a lefty was going to win The Open Championship the following week, it was going to be him. But it was Brian Harman who prevailed at Royal Liverpool – by six. Surprise!

Soon we were watching the saga of Justin Thomas trying to extend his season, an unannounced summer revival of Glover Lovers, and Norway’s favorite son going bonkers at the BMW.

In the end, Hovland, 25 and the second-youngest player in the field at the TOUR Championship, was just too good. Schauffele, who won the 2017 TOUR Championship here, got closer than expected, but Hovland raised the FedExCup trophy just as Tiger Woods, McIlroy, and others.

“I thought 62 would have let me get close to him,” Schauffele said, “but I think the closest I got to was three shots back. He played unbelievably well.”

Morikawa, after his record 36-hole score (61-64) to open this TOUR Championship, shot 73-72 to finish T6. He hasn’t won since the ’21 Open Championship. “I would trade the money for another win and more majors,” he said even before his disappointing final two rounds. “Because people don’t understand how good it feels.”

Hovland, who matched Schauffele’s birdie on 18 and laughed as he embraced his caddie, Shay Knight, understood very well. His lengthy range sessions with his coach, Joe Mayo, had resulted in scores of 69-68-65-61-68-64-66-63 in the season’s final two tournaments.

“It’s fun when every part of your game comes together for two weeks,” Hovland said.

He had a lot to smile about, for he’d delivered, as had the larger season. We were surprised, and delighted. We had to watch. It wasn’t about the money.

*Credit Information www.pgatour.com

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