For the first time in two-and-a-half years, a PGA Tour event has the same winner two years in a row. Viktor Hovland shot a 67 in the final round to finish at -23 on the week, defeating Carlos Ortiz by four and Justin Thomas by five to take the World Wide Championship at Mayakoba.It was never even as close as it looks on paper — and it doesn’t look all that close on paper. Hovland took a two-stroke lead into the finale of the event he won this time last year, went out in 3-under 33 to increase that lead and mostly cruised home to win the third Tour event of his career. In the middle of all that, he went 37 holes — from middle of his round on Friday to middle of his round on Sunday — without a single blemish on his scorecard. He led the field in birdies on the week with 28 and nearly led it in bogey avoidance. That’s normally going to produce trophies.Hovland is now a three-time champion on the PGA Tour in just 57 events played and a two-time champion of this event. Not since Brooks Koepka won the PGA Championship in 2018 and 2019 has a player won the same PGA Tour tournament two years in a row. And while it would be easy to write off the fact that this happened in the fall at an event that’s not necessarily elite, look at the players Hovland beat. Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, Matthew Wolff and Sergio Garcia all finished in the top 20. Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Will Zalatoris and Koepka were all in the field. Don’t be confused by the name on the signage, this was a strong event at the top of the field.Three wins in 57 starts on the PGA Tour is faster than Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson or Thomas reached that number. And while none of them have been a premier event, you have to think that’s coming for him, perhaps as soon as 2022.
Hovland ranks third on the list of the top-10 ball-strikers in the strokes-gained era (beginning of 2004 to now), behind only Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods. That’s pretty good company to keep. Of course, his short game could still use some work. He’s the only one of the 10 on that list who’s not a plus in strokes gained around the green and that showed a bit late at Mayakoba. Still, the foundation is there for Hoyland to break out over the next few years.For now, though, it’s enough to celebrate what’s at hand. Hovland has defeated all 262 golfers he has faced in his last two starts at this tournament and takes some consistency as a top player in the world into 2022. He has not left the top 20 since winning this tournament last year, and staying there for that length of time engenders a confidence that cannot be replicated and will likely help him to many more wins over the rest of what has started out as a brilliant career. Grade: A+Rick Gehman is joined by Greg DuCharme and Mark Immelman to break down and react to Viktor Hovland’s victory at Mayakoba. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Here are the rest of our grades for the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba.Justin Thomas (3): Though he didn’t win after taking The Players Championship in March, J.T. still ended his year on the PGA Tour on a nice run. He closed out 2021 with three top-five finishes in his last five starts and eight top 20s in his last 10 starts worldwide. While it’s true that golfers like Thomas don’t go hunting for T7s, it’s also true that this result contrasts with some brief post-Players struggles, setting him up for what should be another tremendous 2022. He will likely be displeased with his closing kick at Mayakoba, but he probably wasn’t going to catch Hovland anyway. This is still a nice outcome and a good little two-tournament run with new caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay on the bag heading into 2022. Grade: A-Matthew Wolff (T5): There are a couple of different ways to look at Wolff’s T5 here. If you didn’t know what the construction of his week looked like, you would undoubtedly praise the overall finish. If you knew he shot 61 on Thursday and 65 on Sunday, undone only by a 74 in the third round that was nearly the worst score of anyone in the field, you might bemoan what truly could have been his second career win. Regardless, a top-five finish in this field on a course that doesn’t fit him is terrific It’s undeniable that Wolff is performing at new heights in 2021. He has two top-five finishes in a row and three straight top 20s. We probably won’t see too much (if any) of him throughout the rest of 2021, but he has officially changed his trajectory going into 2022. I’m personally excited to see what the rest of the season will bring for him. Grade: A
Brooks Koepka (MC): Koepka’s missed cut is disappointing but unsurprising. He does not have a top 10 anywhere since the Open Championship, which touched off four top-six finishes in five starts, including three majors. Now, he has as many missed cuts this year (six) as he has top 10s anywhere in the world. He is the definition of a feast-or-famine golfer. To be clear, that is not a bad thing in a world where winning is so highly valued and anything else is often considered failure — especially at Koepka’s level. We will likely go into 2022 thinking the same thing we thought coming into 2021: He’s forever a threat at major championships and a question mark everywhere else. Again, this is not a bad thing necessarily, but it’s a reality he reinforced throughout this year. Grade: F