Championship leaderboard: Viktor Hovland breaks course record, surges past Scottie Scheffler for win
The 2023 BMW Championship and the round of the season both belong to Viktor Hovland. Finishing in a flurry at Olympia Fields, the Norwegian’s final round course-record 61 that included a back-nine 28 and 12 threes on his scorecard was just enough to leap world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and fellow European Matt Fitzpatrick for a two-stroke victory in the second event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
“That definitely has to be the best round I’ve ever played,” said Hovland. “Given the circumstances, playoff event at this golf course course, and to finish the way that I did the last nine holes was pretty special.”
Hovland’s 61 represents the lowest round in the history of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but it didn’t have the look of it during the middle stretch. Beginning the back nine four strokes off the pace of the Texan after turning in 2 under, Hovland put together one of the more absurd nine-hole heaters seen on the PGA Tour in recent memory.
Carding seven birdies against zero bogeys, Hovland’s back nine included eight threes, including par breakers on the difficult 17th and 18th, and only one four. Notching his second victory of the season with a frenzy of fireworks, Hovland has once again reminded golf fans he is among the four best players in the world.
The good decisions and shots piled up for Hovland, who became a mainstay on big-time leaderboards in 2023. Hovland’s consistency has often been on display; he’s one of four players to not miss a cut this season. His winning upside was validated with a massive victory at the Memorial this summer after a close call at the PGA Championship, but his ability to calm himself down and make the right choice at the right time has been a skill that he has had to learn and develop, sometimes even the hard way.
“I wouldn’t say making seven birdies on the back nine is playing more conservatively going into the greens,” said Hovland. “It just kind of worked out that way. I think it was more of a mindset thing. I think instead of ‘Oh my God, I’ve got a chance to win. I need to birdie this hole, I need to birdie this hole, I need to birdie this hole to have a chance,’ it was more ‘OK, what is the right decision right here now, let’s commit to it.’ I obviously hit some great shots, got a couple nice bounces and the putts went in, but it wasn’t like I mapped the whole thing out, I was just trying to make the best decision every single shot.”
Hovland’s performance is one for the memory banks. Not often does everything go right for a player with the right skillset at the right stage of the tournament. It’s only possible if said player continues to make the right decisions, and while it may seem like those decisions came easy, like the birdies did, it took time, patience and practice to get here. That is just as impressive.
While he may have clipped Scheffler this week, Hovland will start behind the world No. 1 at the Tour Championship as the victory has catapulted him to second in the season-long race. He will begin the proceedings at East Lake Golf Club at 8 under while Scheffler starts at 10 under. Scheffler may be in the driver’s seat for the second straight season heading into Atlanta, but if Hovland plays anything like he did Sunday at Olympia Fields, the American’s statistically historic season may be upended by the Norwegian’s heater.