Viktor Hovland wins Dubai Desert Classic

Viktor Hovland of Norway poses with the trophy after winning the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club on Sunday. (Picture courtesy Dubai Desert Classic)
Viktor Hovland of Norway poses with the trophy after winning the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club on Sunday. (Picture courtesy Dubai Desert Classic)

It was his first Rolex Series triumph and his second on the DP World Tour

By James Jose

Published: Mon 31 Jan 2022, 12:18 AM

Viktor Hovland reminisced about a match that he played with his mates during his college years. It was down to three strokes and with three to go and Hovland finished with birdie, birdie and then an eagle on the last to beat his mates by a stroke.

Hovland found himself in almost identical circumstances on Sunday and the Norwegian pieced it all together perfectly to clinch the $8 million Dubai Desert Classic, following a play-off with England’s Richard Bland.

And while the reward for that match in college was a sumptuous dinner, this was way, way more lucrative with the 24-year-old earning a $1,333,330 payday.

With it, Hovland etched a few milestones since he turned pro in 2019. He became the first Norwegian winner of the Classic and the first Norwegian to win a Rolex Series event.

And while it was his second triumph on the DP World Tour in his 22nd appearance, after he had won the BMW International Open in Munich last June, it was also his third victory in five starts after back-to-back triumphs at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba and the Hero World Challenge in November and December respectively.

The victory will see Hovland rise from fifth to third when the updated world rankings are released on Monday. Furthermore, Hovland makes up three spots to perch himself at No.1, ahead of Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship winner Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, on the DP World Tour.

“This is pretty wild,” Hovland said immediately after completing his triumph.

“I didn’t really think this was possible going into today (Sunday). I knew I had to shoot a really low number but a lot of things had to go my way and I’m thankful that it did,” he added.

About the play-off, he said: “I’m pumping right now. It’s a little bit surreal, and it’s hard to kind of calm yourself a little bit but you’ve just got to rely on all the shots that you hit and just go back to what you know.”

In fact, Hovland wouldn’t have envisaged that he would have his hands on the Arabic coffee pot-shaped Dallah Trophy, at the start of the day as he was 12 spots behind, six shots adrift.

As overnight leader Justin Harding, who had led for two days, and two-time Dubai champion Rory McIlroy jousted for prime position, Hovland kept at it to put himself in contention. Hovland fired six birdies, an eagle and two bogeys to end his round at six-under 66 for an overall 12-under on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club. He was joined in the play-off by Bland, who carded a four-under 68. And he went on to prevail in the play-off.

The highlight of his title-clinching fourth round was a birdie-eagle-birdie in the final three holes. Hovland, who had finished tied for fourth in Abu Dhabi, rolled in a birdie on the very first hole. A bogey on the par-3 fourth was sandwiched by birdies on three and five before he knocked in a birdie on the par-4 eighth.

He played for par over the first five holes and then suffered a bogey on the par-3 15th. But Hovland then went on a blitz with that sequence of birdie-eagle-birdie, with the eagle coming on the par-4 17th to sign off his round.

It is a career-high for Hovland as he sits behind world No.1 Spaniard Jon Rahm and American Collin Morikawa. But he isn’t getting too far ahead of himself.

“I have quite a lot to prove to be able to beat those guys but this is a good start and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

Two-time Dubai champion Rory McIlroy, looking to become the second golfer after Ernie Els to win the tournament thrice, shot a one-under on the day for an overall 11-under to finish third in the tournament. Harding shot a four-over 76 to end tied for fourth.

UAE amateur Josh Hill shot a six-over 78 on the day for a three-over, to finish tied 55th, while India’s Shubhankar Sharma, who is fifth on the DP World Tour rankings, was tied for 75th after a four-over on the day.

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