Victor Hovland rides greatest round of season to victory at BMW Championship
There's obviously no way to measure who has fired the best round in professional golf in any given season.
It's all a matter of opinion.
So that being the case, we present you with what has to be the front-runner for 2023: Viktor Hovland's course-record 9-under 61 that catapulted the 25-year-old to a BMW Championship title at Olympia Fields on Sunday.
Hovland, who started 3 strokes behind co-leaders Scottie Scheffler and Matt Fitzpatrick, made the turn with a 2-under 33 then rattled off 7 birdies to card a back-nine 28.
Yes, a 28.
And during a high-pressure event on a gnarly, energy-sapping course on a day in which the thermometer hit 91 degrees and the heat index soared to 100.
Truly, it was an incredible feat and Hovland walked off with a well-deserved payday of $3.6 million.
"Definitely has to be the best round I've ever played given the circumstances," Hovland said. "Playoff event at this golf course and finish the way I did the last nine holes was pretty special."
His closest competitors were simply in awe.
"Can't do anything about 61," said Fitzpatrick, who shot 66 and tied Scheffler for second. "I did just see Viktor, I called him a little (crapper)."
It was the lowest closing round this year by a PGA Tour winner and a career-best for Hovland.
"Pretty amazing round of golf to win this tournament like that," said Scheffler, who also shot 66. "I still don't understand how the scores were so low this week. This place seems pretty hard to me, but guys are just ripping it up."
Indeed, the course record was first broken Friday when Max Homa fired a 62, then tied when Sam Burns did the same Saturday.
This was the fifth victory of the Norwegian's young career. He was incredible in this year's majors as well, finishing T-7 at the Masters, T-2 at the PGA, 19th at the U.S. Open and 13th at the British Open.
Oh, and how about a T-3 at the Players Championship?
Add it all up and Hovland has racked up $14.1 million this season alone.
"He just keeps his foot on the pedal," said playing partner Rory McIlroy, who shot 66 and finished in fourth. "Just isn't scared."
Hovland is almost in awe of what has happened over the past five years, especially considering that he won just one collegiate event before pulling off a victory in the 2018 U.S. Amateur.
"I could only dream about winning these tournaments back in 2018," Hovland said. "Winning the U.S. Amateur, that changed a lot of things. ...
"But it's not like I'm expecting to win X amount of tournaments or to win X amount of majors. It's just, 'OK, this is as good as I am right now. What can I do to get better? And if I get better, I have the chance of winning these events.'
"Whatever happens happens."
And what happened Sunday was remarkable, especially considering Scheffler and Fitzpatrick opened a 4-stroke lead on the rest of the field by getting to 14-under after the sixth hole.
But murmurs began making their way around the course after Hovland birdied 10, 11 and 12 by sinking putts of 3, 13 and 4½ feet.
Those murmurs turned to absolute roars when Hovland pulled off perhaps the shot of the tournament on the daunting 449-yard 14th hole. Faced with a difficult shot out of the left rough, Hovland blasted an 8-iron toward the green. The ball hit well short, but after one big bounce it rolled and rolled and rolled ... to 19 inches of the cup.
"As soon as I hit it, I just said, 'Go, go, go, go!' " Hovland said. "I don't know where it landed, but I saw it trickling up there, and then it goes to a foot.
"It was just one of those days, and that was maybe the perfect shot that encapsulated the whole round."
Hovland then hit a terrific chip near the par-5 15th green. With the ball buried in the deep rough near a bunker, Hovland settled in, slanted his shoulders to match the slope and popped the ball out.
The jam-packed stands let out a loud "OOOH!" when the shot almost dropped for eagle. It settled to 8 feet, and Hovland converted the birdie to get to 15-under.
Scheffler was still 16-under when he reached 15, but he botched a relatively easy chip and missed a 13-foot birdie putt.
Hovland proceeded to birdie 17 and 18 by sticking irons to 8 feet, 9 inches and 6½ feet, respectively. After Scheffler gagged on a 6-foot birdie putt on 16, then 3-putted No. 17 for bogey, the tournament was all but over.
To shine one last bit of light on how good Hovland's round was, consider this: There were only 22 birdies ALL DAY on the diabolically difficult 14th, 17th and 18th holes -- and he had 3 of them.
"To win at a place like this and among the best players in the world, it's pretty cool," Hovland said.
Scheffler is still No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings, meaning he'll begin next week's Tour Championship at East Lake at minus-10. Hovland soared to No. 2 in the standings, meaning he starts at minus-8. McIlroy will begin at minus-7, Jon Rahm at minus-6 and Lucas Glover at minus-5.
The winner takes home the season-ending $18 million top prize.