With the way Collin Morikawa has played since arriving on the PGA Tour, it appeared that his five-shot lead after Saturday’s third round of the Hero Challenge at Albany in the Bahamas was secure and he would easily navigate his way to an easy victory. However, a pair of lost balls and some other wayward shots resulted in an opening nine-hole score of five over par 41 and his advantage quickly disappeared as he struggled to a tie for fifth at 15 under par 273 behind eventual winner Viktor Hovland, who had odds of +1100 in pre-tournament wagering.
As Morikawa struggled, he wasn’t alone in squandering a chance at victory with Sam Burns and Patrick Reed also leading at some point, but Hovland was able to emerge victorious by grabbing control of the tournament with back to back eagles on the par four 14th and the par five 15th holes followed by a birdie on the par four 16th. He was able to survive bogeys on his two finishing holes to complete the event at 18 under par 270, one-shot free of Scottie Scheffler.
Hovland’s final tally of 18 under par equaled the same winning score in three of the prior five Hero Challenge tournaments to be contested at Albany, a 7,300 yard, par 72 layout designed by four time major champion Ernie Els. The event hosted by Tiger Woods benefits his TGR Foundation among other local Bahamian charities and has a limited field of 20 of the top players in the world.
Woods, a five-time winner of the Hero Challenge with the same number of runner-up finishes, was present but wasn’t in the field as he continues his recovery from a February automobile accident in Los Angeles following the Genesis Invitational. However, he was seen practicing at times during the week, fueling speculation on a timetable to his return to competitive golf, although he has not given any dates or assurances that he will be playing tournament golf anytime soon.
Betting Odds Favorites
Morikawa and Rory McIlroy were the betting favorites coming into the Hero Challenge with odds of +750, but a third-round 75 doomed McIlroy to an 18th place finish at six-under par 282. Justin Thomas had odds of +900 to win and despite entering the final round 12 shots behind Morikawa, closed strongly with four birdies in his last five holes and recorded a tie for fifth, four shots behind Hovland.
In a strange occurrence, the tee on the par five ninth hole was moved up on Sunday from its previous position in the opening three rounds, prompting the group of Jordan Spieth (+1100) and defending champion Henrik Stenson (+6500) to hit their drives from the wrong spot. The mistake resulted in two-stroke penalties for both players and Spieth took a triple bogey eight while Stenson managed a double bogey seven, as the pair finished well behind the rest of the field for the tournament, with the 19th place Stenson at one over par and Spieth coming in last at six-over par following a closing 76.