The last 12 months of professional golf have been notable for many reasons, not the least of which is the immense success on the PGA Tour from golfers in their early 20s. That got another bump on Sunday as Viktor Hovland shot a 65 in the final round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic — the last PGA Tour event of 2020 — to grab the second win of his career.
Hovland birdied the last hole to beat Aaron Wise by a single stroke after holding the lead or co-lead for most of the final round. The 65 touched off a weekend in which he shot 14 under to leap into the lead and eventually the victory over Wise, who shot a 63 on Sunday.
For Hovland, the win represents the end of a bizarre Puerto Rico Open curse in which no golfer who has won a Puerto Rico Open (like Hovland did earlier this year) has ever gone on to win a different event over the rest of their career. It also represents the second (and best) win of his still-very-short career and the capper on a tremendous first full year on the PGA Tour.
Eighteen months ago, Hovland, Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa were all amateur golfers wrapping up elite careers for their respective schools. Now, 18 months later, they have a combined six PGA Tour wins, a major championship, $17 million and are all ranked in the top 20 in the Official World Golf Rankings. A pretty good year and a half.
It also sets up for what should be a fascinating 2021 from all three young stars (you can throw in Sungjae Im and Scottie Scheffler to that crew as well). Hovland may or may not go down as the best of the bunch over the next decade or two, but this win launched him back into a conversation that will certainly have myriad twists and turns over the next several years.
While young, big names like Hovland and Co. may not have been the story of golf in 2020 — Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson probably take that mantle — Hovland’s win at Mayakoba was definitely a reminder of just how prominent (and good) they have been as well as how scary the future is. Because when that trio has six wins in 18 months, what in the world does the encore look like? Grade: A+
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Tony Finau (T8): Another disappointing close for Finau, who sniffed the lead at moments on Sunday afternoon. After shooting a 3-over 38 on the back nine on Saturday afternoon in Round 3, he shot a similar 1-over 36 on the back nine on Sunday with bogeys on two of his last three holes. Finau is somehow both intoxicating and infuriating in that the talent is astonishing but the spoils of victory are so few. He will end 2020 inside the top 20 for the third consecutive year, and for the third consecutive year he will have done it without a single victory. Grade: B
Justin Thomas (T12): J.T. dug himself too deep of a hole on Thursday when he shot a 1-over 72. And while the last three days were a bit of a thrill ride (especially that 62 on Saturday in Round 3), to have to shoot better than 20 under over the final 54 holes was too much to ask. It officially came undone for him at the 10th where he made double and tumbled from contention. Still, he will end this year with a pair of wins, which is the fourth year in a row he’s done that — an unbelievable feat in this era when the golf is deeper than it’s probably ever been. Grade: B-
Rickie Fowler (MC): It was not a very good week for Fowler, who is now set to likely fall out of the top 50 in the world by the end of 2021, thus leaving him without a 2021 Masters bid entering next year. Staggeringly, Fowler ends 2020 without any first-, second- or third-place finishes anywhere in the world for the first time since 2008, when he was still an amateur and played in just three events. Whatever he ends up ranked on Dec. 31 will be his lowest year-end ranking since 2009 when he ended the year No. 251 in the world. Grade: F