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Viktor Hovland wins Hero World Challenge to match Tiger Woods record

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Viktor Hovland wins Hero World Challenge to match Tiger Woods record

Viktor Hovland led by four shots at the turn. No one was closer to him than two shots over the final nine holes in the Hero World Challenge.

It seems easy. Far from here.

Hovland pulled a 6-iron from an awkward lie into the water on the 18th hole and had to make a 20-foot bogey putt for a 3-under 69 to secure Sunday’s victory, allowing him to join tournament host Tiger Woods as the only back. -to-back winners of this holiday event. Woods defended his title in 2006-07.

‘I made it a bit more exciting, I think,’ says Hovland.

Viktor Hovland joins Tiger Woods as the only man to defend the Hero World Challenge

Viktor Hovland joins Tiger Woods as the only man to defend the Hero World Challenge

Woods is not playing this year but was on hand to see Hovland celebrate his latest victory

Woods is not playing this year but was on hand to see Hovland celebrate his latest victory

Woods won back-to-back Hero World Challenges in 2006 and 07 but wasn't the only one to do so

Woods won back-to-back Hero World Challenges in 2006 and 07 but wasn’t the only one to do so

A year ago, the 25-year-old from Norway rallied from six shots down on the final day with a 66 to win. That’s fun. Leading Albania is more stressful, even if others think it’s a breeze from the Bahamas.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, whose three-putt double bogey on the ninth hole left him five shots behind, stayed in the game with four birdies on the back nine that gave him a brief chance, two shot back into playing the 18th.

Hovland faced a 6-iron from the slope above a bunker, with water left on the green. The club face is closed at impact, and the ball heads left into the hazard.

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‘Basically do nothing but press it into the water,’ says Hovland. ‘So as soon as that happened, I was a little disappointed. But I knew he didn’t have a gimme par, so if I could wedge that close, I could still make a putt and win the tournament. And if not, he still has to make par to force me into the playoff.

‘But it’s more stressful than it should be.’

Scheffler hit his spot close to the sandy spot, and his chip raced into the cup at high speed, about 10 feet into the hole. If Hovland missed his bogey putt, Scheffler would have that putt for a playoff.

Hovland ended the suspense. Scheffler missed what turned out to be a useless putt and shot a 68 to finish two shots back, a runner-up to Hovland for the second year in a row.

‘I said earlier in the week that I didn’t like finishing second,’ Scheffler said. ‘It’s not a good feeling right now. But I’m proud of the fight.’

Woods won in 2006 and 2007 when it was held at Sherwood Country Club. He had to sit out this week with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, instead watching his Sunday red shirt for some drama no one expected.

‘It’s frigging nerve-wracking,’ Hovland said with a smile. ‘You are not very comfortable. I didn’t play that well on the back nine, but that was good enough.’

Hovland finished at 16-under 272 and won $1 million. The victory was unofficial, but the world ranking points pushed him up three spots to No. 9.

Scheffler needed a win to get back to No. 1 in the world, at least for a few weeks. Rory McIlroy is expected to finish the year at No. 1 regardless of the result.

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Starting three shots behind, Scheffler holed a pitch from 30 yards from the green on the par-5 sixth hole for eagle to reach 14-under par and briefly tie for the lead. Hovland had trouble off the tee. He had to play a pitching wedge over a 20-foot dune, an 8-iron into the green and then holed an 18-foot birdie putt to stay one ahead.

The next hole is pivotal, beyond the 18th.

Scheffler’s pitch from the bottom of the fairway on the short par-4 seventh barely missed the green and rolled into the bunker, leading to bogey. Hovland was on the edge of a bunker and hit to 5 feet for birdie and a two-shot swing, bringing his lead back to three.

Hovland, 25, held his nerve - just - on the back nine to emerge victorious on Sunday

Hovland, 25, held his nerve – just – on the back nine to emerge victorious on Sunday

Hovland was under pressure from Scottie Scheffler but fought back against the Masters champion

Hovland was under pressure from Scottie Scheffler but fought back against the Masters champion

There were other challengers in the last two hours, just not long.

Cameron Young made a strong bid and got within two shots at one point until he bogeyed the 16th. Xander Schauffele also made an early run until a bogey at the par-5 15th ended that.

Scheffler reeled off three straight birdies at the 16th hole to get within two shots, and Hovland gave him an opening at the 18th until he closed it with a big putt.

Scheffler will still enter the holiday with a breakthrough year behind him – the Masters among his four PGA Tour wins, No. 1 in the world longer than anyone else this year, the PGA Tour player of the year.

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Young had a 68 and finished tied for third, followed by Schauffele (68) and Justin Thomas, who had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine to salvage a poor start and close with a 70 for after the fifth.

‘It’s only 20 players, but it’s the best 20 players in the world,’ said Hovland. ‘You have to play your best to win.’