It was all set in stone for Collin Morikawa to finish the year in style. He had a 5-shot 54 hole lead in a tournament that, if he won, would elevate him to world number one; in the same week, he got engaged to his long-term girlfriend. Coming off a win in his last start in the European Tour season finale, victory in The Bahamas would have been the cherry on top of the icing already on the cake.
Morikawa’s 5-shot lead was gone, though, after two double-bogeys in his first six holes and the best resort golfer in the world, and Morikawa’s friend and housemate for the week took full advantage.
Viktor Hovland edged past Morikawa and fought off Scottie Scheffler to pick up his second title in the last month. This won’t go down in the records as a tour victory, unlike Hovland’s victory last month at the Worldwide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. Still, the win was worth $1 million and 48 World Ranking points to the Norwegian.
“Honestly, when I first teed off and obviously got off to just making a few pars early on, I didn’t really think winning was even in question,” Hovland said. After making three consecutive birdies on the sixth, seventh and eighth though he looked at the leaderboard behind him and saw he was in contention, “that’s when I knew that, ‘OK, if I play really well on the back nine, I’ve got a chance.’”
Hovland may be from a country famous for its skiing and snow, but he revels in on courses in tropical paradises, having added this tournament to two previous victories at Mayakoba in Mexico and one in Puerto Rico.
“Yeah, there’s not that many similarities to Norway, so I don’t really get it myself,” Hovland said.
“Usually, there’s trouble off the tee, and you’ve got to hit it straight; I think that helps. But frankly, the grass here, the Paspalum and the Bermuda is not something that I’m very used to, so I don’t know. For some reason, I just play well here.”
Morikawa’s Sunday collapse came early. He missed three makeable birdie putts in his first three holes before losing a ball on the fourth and missing another makeable putt, this time for a bogey.
“He plays like an athletic Jim Furyk,” Tiger Woods had said of Morikawa from the commentary booth, but that was before his second shot on the par-5 six swerved violently left, leading to a second double-bogey in the space of three holes.
Morikawa’s double bogeys handed the tournament lead to Sam Burns, but a triple-bogey on the par-4 fourteenth put pay to his challenge paving the way for Hovland to emerge victoriously.
Hovland took control with his third eagle in four days at the par-4 fourteen. A bunker shot that struck the center of the pin and dropped in. Hovland then sunk another eagle at the fifteenth and added a birdie at the sixteenth to suddenly push him into an out-of-nowhere lead.
Things weren’t all plain sailing for Hovland however, NBC’s broadcast highlighted a potential rules violation on the seventeenth when Hovland removed some sand that was on the green and in his line despite his approach shot landing just short of the green. Officials looked to see if Hovland had brushed any sand away that wasn’t on the green, which would have incurred a penalty, but he hadn’t, and his lead remained intact going into the final hole.
A closing bogey was enough to seal victory in The Bahamas for the man from Norway who lives in Oklahoma.
“It’s crazy to think that I’m… you know just playing the PGA Tour is pretty incredible just from thinking back to where I grew up and playing golf in Norway, you’re playing golf six months out of the year, and it’s pretty far fetched to even just play golf professionally coming from Norway,” Hovland said. “So for me to be here and winning tournaments is pretty unreal.”
Hovland also spoke about sharing a house in The Bahamas for the week with his friend Morikawa, “I mean, we don’t really talk that much about golf at night. He’s got his caddie, his now-fiancée, and I’ve got my caddie and trainer, so there’s a good amount of people in the house.
“Yeah, obviously, I expected Collin to play a little better than he did today, and I’m sure he did as well, and he’s going to be a little upset with that. You know, he’s genuinely happy for me, and when he does well, I couldn’t be happier for him. It’s a good friendship.”