NASSAU, Bahamas – On the identical day that Tiger Woods, the soon-to-be 46-year-old, was noticed inflating expectations on the far finish of Albany’s apply tee, one twentysomething confirmed why this specific comeback for Woods might be demanding effectively past the bodily challenges of a surgically rebuilt proper leg.
Woods, the smiling host and 15-time main winner, was there to congratulate Viktor Hovland following Hovland’s one-stroke victory on the Hero World Problem, but when it wasn’t the 24-year-old from Norway, it seemingly would’ve been the 24-year-old from La Cañada, California (Collin Morikawa), or the 25-year-old from Dallas (Scottie Scheffler), or the 25-year-old from Shreveport, Louisiana (Sam Burns).
There may be nonetheless room within the recreation for the over-30 crowd – Phil Mickelson proved on the PGA Championship that even the fifty-somethings nonetheless have one thing to say – however Sunday’s end at Albany was a crowded reminder that the sport is trending to the twentysomethings.
Morikawa started the day with what felt each bit the insurmountable lead (5 strokes) following three sensible days across the greens. It was a coronation for the five-time PGA Tour winner with the highest spot on this planet rating awaiting with a victory within the Bahamas.
“5 again, so I’ve received to do one thing, so I suppose yeah,” Brooks Koepka allowed late Saturday when requested his possibilities heading into the ultimate loop.
Like Koepka, others mentioned the suitable issues, however they didn’t imply it. Morikawa has been in full flight this yr successful his second main at The Open and his first World Golf Championship in South Carolina. However the cracks in his recreation confirmed early.
Morikawa made a double bogey-6 at No. Four however was nonetheless main. When he added his second double bogey two holes later he’d been bumped to second place and by the point he completed his opening 9 with a bogey at No. 9 for a gap card of 41 the runaway had turn into a contest.
“Clearly slightly unhappy to see him not play his finest at present,” mentioned Hovland of Morikawa, his roommate for the week. “He is a fantastic participant and I anticipated him to only sort of roll away with the victory, however generally this sport shouldn’t be that simple and I am certain he’ll come again even stronger.”
Scheffler, who began the day seven photographs off the lead and made a triple bogey-7 on the fourth gap, moved into the hunt with 4 consecutive birdies to shut his spherical.
“I seemed on the leaderboard and after I was making the flip, I feel there was a pair guys at 16 [under] and I discussed [to his caddie] let’s have a reasonably good again 9 right here, nonetheless have probability,” Scheffler mentioned. “I used to be fairly motivated going into the again 9 and was capable of hit some actually good photographs.”
It’s a testomony to how fluid the state of affairs grew to become after Morikawa opened the door that Hovland began Sunday’s ultimate spherical six photographs off the lead, bogeyed his final two holes and gained by a stroke.
Hovland did produce two of the week’s most memorable moments when he holed out for an eagle-2 on the par-4 14th gap to seize the lead and adopted with a 20-foot putt for eagle on the 15th gap. By the point he added a birdie at No. 16 for good measure he solely needed to keep away from a catastrophe on the 18th gap, the place there have been loads of disasters this week, so as to add to a resume that already contains Tour victories in Mexico (two) and Puerto Rico to go together with his 2021 walk-off within the Bahamas.
“There’s not that many similarities to Norway, so I do not actually get it myself,” Hovland mentioned when requested about his Tropical Slam. “Normally there’s bother off the tee and you have to hit it straight, I feel that helps. However frankly, the grass right here, the Paspalum and the Bermuda, shouldn’t be one thing that I am very used to, so I do not know. For some cause I simply play effectively right here.”
Hovland first met Woods when he was 16 years outdated on the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, a prime junior occasion, and, like most gamers of his technology, was pushed by clips of Woods’ accomplishments.
“I bear in mind sitting within the classroom simply watching highlights on YouTube,” Hovland mentioned. “He undoubtedly impressed me and helped me in that means, however watching his highlights sort of make it appear much more farfetched as a result of you are going to be competing towards this man once you get on Tour hopefully. It was extra like I made it extra of a dream.”
Woods might have been considering the identical factor as he watched Hovland draw back from the sphere along with his back-to-back eagles and fearless play on Sunday.
The highway again to the Tour for Woods stays a thriller and is completely depending on how Woods’ rebuilt leg responds to continued rehabilitation. However having the twentysomethings ready for him is probably going each motivating and trigger for concern.