In Olympia Fields, Illinois, Viktor Hovland showcased a masterful performance on the back nine, while Rory McIlroy meticulously recorded his brilliant shots with consistent “3”s in every box.
Hovland seized the perfect moment on Sunday, delivering the round of his career and transforming a head-to-head competition into a solo triumph. He shattered the course record, carding a remarkable 9-under 61 to surge past both Scottie Scheffler and Matt Fitzpatrick and secure victory at the BMW Championship.
Previously, the record of 62 had been set twice during the week on the rain-soaked North course, once by Sam Burns and again by Max Homa in the preceding days. Hovland’s performance was almost flawless, with birdies on all but two holes on the back nine.
Hovland reflected on his performance, saying, “When I sank that birdie putt on the 15th hole, I felt we had a real chance if I could finish strong. Until then, I had no clue what was happening behind me. My focus was on playing well and continuing to make birdies.”
The story behind him unfolded without much excitement. Scheffler made enough putts to hold a two-shot lead at one point, but he faltered at critical moments—missing a six-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th and enduring a three-putt from 20 feet on the 17th, leading to a bogey.
Fitzpatrick, too, had a challenging stretch in the middle of his round, posting a 1-over score over eight holes. He managed to salvage the situation with two late birdies, ultimately sharing second place with Scheffler, both closing with impressive 66s. They left Chicago in admiration of Hovland’s feat.
Fitzpatrick, with a grin, commented, “You can’t do anything about a 61. I may have called Viktor a little s—, but I’m genuinely pleased with how I performed. Being in contention with the world No. 1, I didn’t lose it; someone else came from behind and won it.”
Even on the softened terrain due to rain, Scheffler couldn’t fathom the low scores, offering his applause to Hovland, especially for his Sunday performance. It marked the lowest closing round by a PGA Tour winner that year and a career highlight for the 25-year-old Norwegian star.
Scheffler expressed his frustration, stating, “I’m a bit frustrated; that’s probably the best way to describe it. Viktor simply outplayed me today and delivered a fantastic round. I can hold my head high. I gave my best and fought hard, but I fell a couple of shots short.”
Hovland secured his second victory of the year, and it was a sight to behold. He faced only one putt longer than 15 feet on the back nine and finished with birdies on the challenging 17th and 18th holes. His last birdie involved a pitching wedge shot from 158 yards over a bunker, landing just 6 feet from the hole.
Hovland humbly reflected on his achievement, saying, “That has to be the best round I’ve ever played. Given the circumstances— a playoff event and this challenging golf course—how I played those final holes was truly special.”
The real drama, however, unfolded elsewhere. Jordan Spieth bogeyed his last two holes, jeopardizing his position in the top 30 for the FedEx Cup, which grants entry to the Tour Championship at East Lake next week. Denny McCarthy’s three bogeys in the last seven holes also dashed his hopes.
A particularly heartbreaking story was Sahith Theegala’s. He had three consecutive birdies through the 17th hole and seemed set for a top-30 finish. However, he suffered a bogey on the last hole, while Patrick Cantlay in his group made a birdie. As a result, they tied for 15th, sealing Theegala’s fate for the season.
Sepp Straka clinched the 30th spot by a nine-point margin over Theegala.
In a small consolation, Xander Schauffele’s round of 68 earned him a tie for eighth place. It also secured the sixth and final automatic spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, narrowly edging out Brooks Koepka, who dropped to seventh in the Ryder Cup standings.
U.S. captain Zach Johnson is set to announce his six picks in nine days.
Scheffler, despite his disappointment, holds the No. 1 seed at East Lake for the second consecutive year, starting the tournament at 10 under par, two shots ahead of Hovland.
McIlroy, who shot a 66 and finished fourth at the BMW Championship, is the No. 3 seed, followed by Jon Rahm and Lucas Glover.
McIlroy remarked, “I felt like I played very average out there next to Viktor. He played amazing. I was marking his card, and I’m like, ‘Oh, you only made one 4 on the back nine, the rest 3s.’ It adds up to a nice little 28 for him. I sort of realized around like 14, 15, something pretty special was happening.”
Amidst all the FedEx Cup possibilities that unfolded over six intense hours on Sunday, Fitzpatrick was the only player to work his way into the top 30 golfers heading to Atlanta, with a chance to compete for the coveted $18 million bonus. Starting at No. 40, he impressively climbed to the 10th spot in the standings.