(Reuters) – Viktor Hovland became the first Norwegian to win on the PGA Tour when he rammed home a 25-foot birdie at the final hole for a one-shot triumph at the Puerto Rico Open on Sunday.
Hovland, who won the 2018 U.S. Amateur Championship and was making just his 17th start on the Tour, reacted with glee when his putt crashed into the back of the cup at considerable speed and dropped in at Coco Beach in Rio Grande.
“To win the first tournament from Norway is really special. It’s a lot more than I could have asked for,” he said after overcoming a triple-bogey at the 11th hole to shoot two-under-par 70 in at-times driving rain.
“It’s hard to deal with expectations because they’re usually higher than what’s realistic. If you’d told me a year ago I would have won a PGA Tour event in my 17th start I would have said that’s nuts.”
Hovland, who turned pro last June, finished at 20-under-par 268, edging Josh Teater after the American missed a 15-foot birdie at the last.
Though an official PGA Tour event, the Puerto Rico Open was missing the game’s biggest names, who were at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Hovland’s rewards include a two-year PGA Tour exemption and a spot in next month’s $15 million Players Championship.
“I was thinking about all the other putts during the round. I’d pretty much left every other putt short,” said Hovland, who like Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama captured his first Tour win at the age of 22.
“I was (thinking) I’m not going to hit this putt short. I gave it a good rip and thankfully it hit the middle of the cup.
“I couldn’t quite believe it. There was some relief and a lot of excitement.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Richard Chang/Peter Rutherford)