The Sun (Lowell)

Hovland’s clutch putts wins Memorial in playoff

- The Associated Press

Viktor Hovland was happy with his three PGA Tour victories, even if they were at resort courses that were soft and susceptibl­e to firing at flags. He wanted a win on American soil, where par was at a premium, and he got every bit of that Sunday at the Memorial.

Two shots behind and facing the three hardest holes at Muirfield Village, Hovland set his sights on a score instead of the leader, Denny Mccarthy, and then delivered his best stuff of the day.

Hovland holed a 30-foot birdie putt — the only birdie of the day at No. 17 — around two par saves for a 2-under 70 that got him into a playoff, and then he beat the hard-luck Mccarthy with a 7-foot par to win the Memorial.

His previous three wins were twice at Mayakoba on the Gulf coast of Mexico and once in Puerto Rico. This victory came on conditions so difficult that even Jack Nicklaus was stunned to feel how firm the greens were when he stepped on the 18th to congratula­te Hovland.

“It feels really cool to get my first win on the U.S. soil, especially at a tournament like this where this the golf course is arguably harder than most major championsh­ip golf courses we play,” Hovland said. “It felt like a major. So it was really cool that I was able to get it done at a place like this.”

It was a crushing loss for Mccarthy, one of the purest putters on the PGA Tour. He showed his touch by saving crucial pars and playing bogey-free on a day when the average score was just under 75. His only bogey came on the 18th hole — twice.

Mccarthy had a one-shot lead when he missed the 18th fairway to the left, pitched out to the fairway and narrowly missed a 25-foot par putt for the win. In

the playoff, his shot from the right rough rolled back off the green some 50 yards away. He pitched to 12 feet and the putt caught the left edge and spun away.

“I’m heartbroke­n right now,” Mccarthy said, emotion in his voice after his closest call to win on the PGA Tour in his 156th attempt.

Hovland hit the front of the green, and his 60-foot putt stopped 7 feet short, still uphill and with much less break than his 5-footer in regulation to get in the playoff.

“I was shaking more in regulation,” Hovland said.

The 25-year-old from Norway won $3.6 million and moved to No. 5 in the world ranking with his fourth PGA Tour victory, and eighth worldwide since turning pro four years ago out of Oklahoma


This was a final day when so many went in reverse from the 22 players who had been separated by three shots at the start of the round.

Rory Mcilroy chipped in from below the fourth green for birdie and had the lead on the front nine, but he gave away far too many shots on the back — three bogeys in a row — for a 75 that took him out of the picture.

Scottie Scheffler closed with a 67 and finished third and missed the playoff by one shot, remarkable considerin­g he made the cut on the number. The No. 1 player in the world has not finished worse than 12th in his 13 starts this year.

But what a week to forget with the putter.

Scheffler turned a statistica­lly dominant performanc­e from tee-to-green, picking up 20.7 strokes on the field in that category. But he lost 8.5 strokes to the field in his putting. This might be the best context —

it was nearly a 20-shot differenti­al in putting to Mccarthy, and Scheffler finished one shot behind.

“I think a little bit of my struggles with the putting have probably helped me elevate my ball striking, just because if I’m trying to compete out here ... with the putts not going in, I’ve got to hit it really good. And I’ve been able to do that,” Scheffler said.

“Maybe people are asking me about my putting so much more because I’m hitting it so good,” he said. “When you’re hitting a bunch of greens it’s not easy to make every putt. I mean, if I was putting the best this week, I would have won by a crazy amount of shots.”

That belonged to Hovland, who joined Mccarthy (70) at 7-under 281.

Hovland didn’t feel as though he did anything special. He has had better weeks striking the ball. His lowest round was 69. But he was the only player to break par in all

four rounds.

“I played smart. I played my game. And I came up clutch this time,” Hovland said.

He was particular­ly strong at the end. The final three were the toughest at Muirfield Village all week. Hovland birdied two of the three on Saturday to get in the mix, and he played them 1 under on Sunday to get into a playoff.

Si Woo Kim, who played in the last group with Mcilroy, had a 73 to finish alone in fourth. Jordan Spieth was in the group another shot back.

Zhang joins history with Mizuho victory

Two-time NCAA champion Rose Zhang became the first LPGA Tour winner in her pro debut in 72 years, capturing the Mizuho Americas Open with a par on the second hole in a playoff against Jennifer Kupcho.

The last female player to win as a pro in her debut was

Beverly Hanson, who edged Babe Zaharias to take the Eastern Open in 1951.

Zhang shot a 2-over 74 in the final round and squandered a chance to win the event on the 72nd when she missed an 8-foot par saver after making at least a half dozen clutch saves in a gritty final round performanc­e.

The much-heralded 20-year-old from Stanford made a nearly identical 8-footer on No. 18 at Liberty National on the first playoff hole. Kupcho, who won an NCAA title at Wake Forest in 2018 and had a final round 69, also made a par.

Both players hit the fairway on No. 18 on the second playoff hole, but Zhang hit her approach from the fairway within 10 feet. Kupcho was short on her approach, her first putt went just over the back edge of the green and her second putt just missed. That left Zhang with a two-putt par to win.

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