Viktor Hovland Stages Final Round Comeback To Secure Dubai Title

Hovland birdied the first playoff hole to defeat Richard Bland and secure his first Rolex Series event

Hovland celebrates
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After three-putting the 15th green, Hovland had more or less given up his chances of securing a first Rolex Series title. However, a birdie, eagle, birdie finish catapulted the 24-year-old into a share of the lead as he headed to the clubhouse. 

Setting the target at 12-under-par, he was joined by Richard Bland, with the Englishman producing back-to-back birdies at the 17th and 18th to share the top spot.

Their efforts appeared to be in vain though, with Rory McIlroy needing just one birdie over the last two holes to jump the duo to the title. However, a scrappy par at the short 17th was followed by a huge mistake at the par-5 last! Faced with 265-yards for his second, the four-time Major champion went for glory when perhaps a lay-up was more suitable.

McIlroy hits a shot at the 18th

McIlroy plays his shot into the 18th.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Blocking his fairway wood into the water, he would then fail to get up and down and join Hovland and Bland in the playoff. A huge error that will likely live with McIlroy for some time.

In the playoff, it was Hovland who prevailed, with the young Norwegian defeating Bland with a smart birdie at the iconic 18th. After rolling in the winning putt, he straight away apologised to Tim Barter, Bland's coach, who was conducting the interview for Sky Sports. "I honestly didn't think this was possible going into today", said Hovland.

"I knew I had to shoot a really low number and a lot of things had to go my way, but I'm thankful that it did. I was fuming after the three-putt at the 15th. I thought that was it really, but I knew I had to finish off well to get a nice position for the week."

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Beginning the final day, Hovland was part of eight Ryder Cup players who were within six shots of overnight leader, Justin Harding. However, a front nine 32 on a day where scoring was at a minimal, put the the 24-year-old comfortably into the top-10.

Hovland though would struggle to replicate that form over the beginning of the back nine, with a three-putt bogey on the 15th dropping him to eight-under-par for the tournament.

That mistake seemed the kick the 24-year-old into life, with a lengthy birdie putt at the 16th being followed by another lengthy eagle putt at the driveable 17th. He wasn't done there though, as he bombed his drive over the corner and played a solid iron shot into the 72nd hole.

Two-putting for the birdie to set the clubhouse target, he was soon joined by Bland, who also produced some clutch putting himself over the closing few holes. The 48-year-old, who famously claimed his first DP World Tour title in his 478th start, rolled in a 15-foot putt at the last to get to the 12-under-par total.

Bland and Hovland shake hands

Hovland and Bland shake hands following the playoff.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After watching McIlroy dump one into the water at the 18th, it was Hovland and Bland who headed back to the tee for playoff holes. The Englishman, who is double the age of Hovland, was the first to play away and struck his tee shot crisply, finding the centre of the fairway at the dogleg-left par-5.

Hovland would follow his opponent and then take the advantage with the approach shots. Striking a fairway wood, his second found the green, whilst Bland's found an old divot just to the left of the putting surface.

As Bland rolled his chip to six-foot, Hovland produced another super lag-putt, leaving a tap-in for birdie and forcing his opponent to hole, what was, a fiddly left to right putt. Unfortunately, Bland couldn't react, leaving Hovland to tap-in and secure his third victory in five global starts and also third spot in the world rankings.

Matt Cradock
Staff Writer

Matt joined Golf Monthly in February 2021 covering weekend news, before also transitioning to equipment and testing. After freelancing for Golf Monthly and The PGA for 18 months, he was offered a full-time position at the company in October 2022 and continues to cover weekend news and social media, as well as help look after Golf Monthly’s many buyers’ guides and equipment reviews.

Taking up the game when he was just seven years of age, Matt made it into his county squad just a year later and continues to play the game at a high standard, with a handicap of around 2-4. To date, his best round came in 2016, where he shot a six-under-par 66 having been seven-under through nine holes. He currently plays at Witney Lakes in Oxfordshire and his favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.

Matt’s current What’s In The Bag?

Driver: Honma TW747, 8.75°

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Rocketballz Stage 2, 15°, 19°

Hybrid: Adams Super Hybrid, 22°

Irons: Mizuno MP54, 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 Tour Satin, 50°, 56°, 60°

Putter: Cleveland TFI 2135 Satin Cero

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x