Viktor Hovland made a massive birdie putt at the 17th hole and saved par on his first playoff hole to defeat Denny McCarthy and win the Memorial Tournament on Monday in Dublin, Ohio.
The 25-year-old from Norway earned his fourth and biggest PGA Tour win and a handshake with tournament host and golf legend Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
"It's a little bit surreal right now," Hovland said on the CBS broadcast. "Playing Jack's course and playing his tournament and winning it, and for him to be able to see it, he just shook my hand and gave me a couple words of encouragement. That's pretty awesome."
New Zealand's Ryan Fox finished with a two-under 70 to improve 24 places in a share of 30th, with his two-over tally leaving him nine strokes behind Hovland and McCarthy.
On a day when some of the world's elite golfers struggled to score and the lead crept down a few strokes, McCarthy was on the path to his first PGA Tour title thanks to a red-hot putter. But he bogeyed the final hole and tied Hovland at 7-under 281, one stroke ahead of Scottie Scheffler.
Hovland and McCarthy each shot 2-under 70 in wildly different ways. Hovland made five birdies and three bogeys, with the all-important birdie at No. 17 falling from 27 1/2 feet away -- the only birdie made at that hole all day.
"It's fun to win one of these things without just ball-striking it to death. Now I can kinda rely on some other strengths as well," Hovland said.
McCarthy made three early birdies before a long string of pars helped him outlast threats from the likes of Rory McIlroy. McCarthy, who led the field in strokes gained putting this week, was at 8 under and had a two-stroke lead for parts of the afternoon.
After 10 straight pars at Nos. 8-17, McCarthy's drive at the par-4 18th found thick rough left of the fairway and he could only punch out into the fairway. His third shot landed 23 feet away from the cup, and his long par try whizzed past the cup, leading to a 5-foot bogey and the playoff.
Replaying the 18th for the playoff, McCarthy's drive this time sailed far right. He missed a 14-foot putt for par, while Hovland lagged a long putt from 58 feet away before saving par from about 7 feet.
Hovland was a threat on Sunday at some of the biggest tournaments in golf this season, tying for third at The Players Championship, tying for seventh at the Masters and tying for second at last month's PGA Championship.
"I just played smart, played my game and came up clutch this time," Hovland said. "It feels even better after a few close calls the last few months."
"I battled really hard," an emotional McCarthy said. "Heartbroken right now, but a lot of positives to take from this week. Just played really well. I would say my putter kept me in it when I was a little shaky."
Scheffler made the cut on the number before following up a 68 on Saturday with a 67 Sunday. It was enough for the world No. 1's 12th top-10 of the season and his fourth top-five in a row.
The three co-leaders through 54 holes were McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Si Woo Kim of South Korea and David Lipsky, but all three had forgettable afternoons. Kim shot a 73 and finished fourth at 5 under, McIlroy posted a 75 and tied Adam Schenk (71) for seventh at 3 under and Lipsky shot a 77 to fall into a tie for 12th at 1 under.
McIlroy came apart due to seven bogeys, including three straight at Nos. 12-14 that took him out of contention. He three-putted the 13th hole thanks to a missed par putt from 3 feet, 8 inches, and his shot from out of a greenside bunker at the 14th missed the green altogether.
Jordan Spieth shot a 71 and Andrew Putnam fired a 70 to tie for fifth at 4 under. Adam Scott of Australia (71), Rickie Fowler (72) and Matt Fitzpatrick of England (72) tied for ninth at 2 under.
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