Hovland nets Dubai Desert Classic after final round fireworks

reuters

Norway's Viktor Hovland made a remarkable final round charge to defeat Richard Bland in the first play-off hole and win the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday.

The 24-year-old, six shots off overnight leader Justin Harding, produced a storming finish, sandwiching a terrific eagle two on the par-4 17th hole with birdies on the 16th and 18th to close with a sensational six-under par 66.

That took the man from Oslo to 12-under par and set the clubhouse mark, which was later matched by England's Bland, double the age of Hovland, after a stunning 22-feet birdie on the 18th hole.

Bland, who turns 49 in three days, chipped in for a birdie on the difficult ninth hole, and then holed his tough bunker shot on the par-3 11th.

However, the most crucial shot was the 22-feet birdie putt on the 18th, as the winner of last year's British Masters closed with a 68.

Rory McIlroy reached the 17th tee at 12-under par, but slightly blocked his tee shot into the right bushes on the reachable par-4.

The four-time major champion proceeded to make a remarkable par, but sliced his 3-wood second shot on the par-5 18th into the water.

He finished with a bogey and was third at 11-under par.

On the first play-off hole, Hovland found the green in two and two-putted for a birdie. Bland missed his second shot and then failed to make an up and down from the greenside rough.

Hovland never looked in contention after making a three-putt bogey from 33 feet on the 15th.

But he then drained a 35-footer for birdie on the 16th, a 33-footer for eagle on the 17th and missed a 40-footer for eagle on the 18th.

Hovland seems to be making it a tradition of mounting a late Sunday charge.

His last win on the PGA Tour, the Tiger Woods-hosted Hero World Challenge in December last year, also saw him come up from a similar position.

"I wouldn’t say it’s become a habit just yet. Obviously, you have to get things going your way and I would certainly say that I had things going my way in Bahamas last time, and obviously this time, finishing birdie, eagle, birdie, that’s something that rarely happens," said Hovland.

"And even then, some other guys had a chance to take me out of it. So, I just try to do the best I can. I knew that I could post a good score today. I played some good golf this week. But I didn't quite get the same momentum that I did today. I posted a good number and made it interesting for the guys behind me.”

Hovland is expected to rise two places to number 3 in the world rankings next week behind Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa.

"I have quite a lot to prove to be able to beat those guys, but this is a good start and we will see what happens," said Hovland.

"It's pretty wild to become the world number three....it's very rewarding to see all the hard work paying off."

Five players were tied for fourth place at eight-under par, a group that included the overnight leader Harding (76) and Poland’s Adrian Meronk (72).

Australian Adam Scott (69) and Europe’s 2021 Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington (72) were in a tie for ninth at seven-under par 281.


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