Golf roundup: PGA’s Viktor Hovland, LPGA’s Rose Zhang impress in playoff victories

AP photo by Darron Cummings / Viktor Hovland celebrates after making a putt on the first playoff hole to win the Memorial Tournament on Sunday at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. Hovland beat Denny McCarthy in the playoff and earned his fourth PGA Tour win and eighth victory worldwide as a pro.
AP photo by Darron Cummings / Viktor Hovland celebrates after making a putt on the first playoff hole to win the Memorial Tournament on Sunday at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. Hovland beat Denny McCarthy in the playoff and earned his fourth PGA Tour win and eighth victory worldwide as a pro.

DUBLIN, Ohio — 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 still wanted a win on American soil, where par was at a premium, and he got every bit of that Sunday at the Memorial Tournament.

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.

He holed a 30-foot birdie putt — the only birdie of the day at No. 17 — around two par saves for a 2-under-par 70 that got him into a playoff, and then he beat the hard-luck McCarthy with a seven-foot par to win the tournament founded nearly a half-century ago by Jack Nicklaus.

Hovland won twice in Mexico and once in Puerto Rico for his previous three PGA Tour wins. This victory came in conditions so difficult that even 18-time major champion 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. The 30-year-old American showed his touch by saving crucial pars and avoiding bogeys 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. His bogey gave him a 70 and dropped him to 7-under 281 with Hovland. In the playoff, McCarthy's 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 seven feet short, still uphill and with much less break than his five-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 Official World Golf Ranking with his eighth win worldwide since turning pro four years ago out of Oklahoma State.

Hovland didn't feel as though he did anything special. He has had better weeks striking the ball. His lowest round was a 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," he said.

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 as he missed the playoff by one shot, remarkable considering he made the cut on the number Friday. 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 in 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 compared 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. 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."

Luke List closed with a 70 to finish at par and tie for 16th, the best result of four Baylor School graduates in the field. Stephan Jaeger (76) tied for 24th at 1 over, Keith Mitchell (79) tied for 48th at 5 over and Harris English (74) tied for 52nd at 6 over.

  photo  AP photo by Darron Cummings / Denny McCarthy putts on the fourth green at Muirfield Village during the final round of the Memorial Tournament on Sunday in Dublin, Ohio.

First time's a charm

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Two-time NCAA Division I 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 hole when she missed an eight-footer for par after making at least a half-dozen clutch saves in a gritty final round.

The highly heralded 20-year-old from Stanford made a nearly identical eight-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 69 in the final round, 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.

Zhang held her face in disbelief after the winning putt fell and was then mobbed and presented with bouquets of roses. Her victory secure an automatic LPGA Tour membership.

Seen as the most-hyped player to join the tour since Michelle Wie in 2009, Zhang did not have a birdie in her final round and finished at 9-under 279 on the course with the New York City skyline as a backdrop. South Korean rookie Hae Ran Ryu (70) was third at 8 under, with three players sharing fourth.

Zhang turned pro last week after the NCAA tournament, and much was expected right away. She was the top-ranked women's amateur for 141 weeks and won every big women's amateur event: the U.S. Women's Amateur, the U.S. Junior Girls Amateur, the Augusta National Women's Amateur and the NCAA tourney.

  photo  AP photo by Adam Hunger / Rose Zhang, second from right, accepts a bouquet of roses after winning the Mizuho Americas Open on the second hole of a playoff Sunday at Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J. Zhang beat LPGA Tour veteran Jennifer Kupcho to win in her pro debut.

Another win for Ames

DES MOINES, Iowa — Stephen Ames birdied the 17th hole and closed with a 5-under 67 for a one-shot victory over Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker in the Principal Charity Classic, giving the 59-year-old his third PGA Tour Champions win this year and the fifth of his career.

Ames finished at 17-under 199 as he won the 54-hole tournament for the second time. He first won in it 2021.

Ames, Stricker and Tim Herron shared the 36-hole lead at Wakonda Club. Herron fell back with a 72. Stricker, coming off his second straight major title this year at the Senior PGA Championship, had a bogey-free 68 that just wasn't enough to keep up with Ames.

"It was a battle today, there's no doubt about that," Ames said. "Steve, obviously the way he's played this year already tells you it was going to be a good battle, and the fact that I ended up on top is more fulfilling than anything else right now."

Kelly had four straight birdies on the front nine and closed with two birdies over the last three holes, but he had to settle for a par on the 18th that kept him out of a playoff.

Rod Pampling (66) and Tim Petrovic (67) tied for fourth.

Ames and Stricker lead the 50-and-older tour with three victories apiece this year, though Stricker kept his lead in the season-long Charles Schwab Cup championship race on the strength of his two major titles.

"Last year I had no wins and finished eighth (in the Schwab Cup). This year I've come out and got three under my belt already," Ames said. "So now I'm contemplating looking at my schedule thinking I can take a couple weeks off here and there, so we'll see what happens."

Ames won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in early May — his second victory in that event, with the first in 2017 — and the Trophy Hassan II in February.

Stricker now moves on to his native Wisconsin as the player-host of the American Family Insurance Championship.

Rookie breaks through

HAMBURG, Germany — DP World Tour rookie Tom McKibbin held off a German challenge to win the European Open.

The 20-year-old from Northern Ireland started the final round as one of six players tied for the lead at 6 under and went on to win his first title on the Europe-based circuit by two shots, closing with a 3-under 70 to finish at 9-under 283. He made a birdie on the par-five 18th at Green Eagle after missing an eagle putt.

"Pretty amazing, it was a great day," McKibbin said. "It probably won't sink in until tomorrow."

Maximilian Kieffer (70) and Marcel Siem (71), who were both bidding to become the first German golfer in 15 years to win a tour event on home soil, shared second place with France's Julien Guerrier (72).

Siem and Kieffer, despite falling short, still underlined the recent resurgence of German players. Germans have won six events in the past 10 months on the DP World Tour after previously not having won since 2014.

McKibbin built a two-shot lead at the turn, but bogeys on Nos. 11 and 13 left him briefly level with Kieffer and Siem before he recovered with a birdie on the 15th. Instead of playing it safe, McKibbin took a risk with his second shot on the 18th, using a draw around a tree to hit the ball close to the pin for the eagle attempt.

This year, McKibbin moved up from the developmental Challenge Tour. He grew up playing at the Holywood Golf Club near Belfast, the same as four-time major winner Rory McIlroy. Until Sunday, McKibbin's most notable tour achievement was holding the first-round lead at the Singapore Classic in March before tying for 12th.

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