ATLANTA — Viktor Hovland knew he was playing the best golf of his life. Staked to a six-shot lead Sunday in the season-ending Tour Championship, he figured a steady diet of fairways and greens and plenty of pars would be the safest route to winning the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup.
Xander Schauffele made Hovland change his plans.
And then the 25-year-old Norwegian star performed even better.
Hovland didn't flinch under a relentless challenge from Schauffele, matching birdies at East Lake Golf Club from start to finish until he capped the best two weeks of his career with his biggest trophy: a FedEx Cup title and the $18 million bonus.
He closed with a 7-under-par 63, the lowest score by the winner in Tour Championship history, and won the tournament by five shots over Schauffele.
"The game plan was to try to play as boring as possible — play it like Tiger (Woods) back in the day when he would post a 69 or 70 in a major championship and walk away with the victory," Hovland said.
This was anything but boring golf as Schauffele, on his way to a 63, put some pressure on Hovland. A six-shot lead was cut to three shots on the back nine until Hovland poured in a 25-foot par putt on the 14th hole that made an already steep hill all but impossible for Schauffele to scale.
"What he was doing today was very special," Hovland said. "It made this day more stressful than it should have been."
So ended a season when Hovland won for the first time in the United States at the Memorial Tournament, had a multiple-win season, then finished with two weeks of such sublime golf that he won the BMW Championship, the second of three FedEx Cup postseason events, with a closing 9-under 61 at Olympia Fields Country Club, and secured the Tour Championship at 36 under.
"It's pretty surreal to be standing here right now," Hovland said after receiving the silver FedEx Cup trophy. "I played basically my best golf the last two weeks, and it couldn't have happened at a better moment."
Schauffele made him work for it, firing at flags from the opening hole. He got to within three shots with seven holes to play and had momentum on his side. And then Hovland ended the suspense with that 25-foot par putt on the 14th hole, and he put Schauffele away with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th.
Hovland and Schauffele put on a superb show. Playing in the last group, on a day when the tourney was delayed nearly two hours by thunderstorms, they had the best scores of the day. The next-best score was a 65 from players who never had a chance at winning.
"I thought 62 would have let me get close to him," Schauffele said. "He played unbelievably well. He made important putts, and he's just played like a champ."
Hovland was the No. 2 seed going into the Tour Championship, meaning he started the tournament at 8 under. Hovland posted a 19-under 261 — the same score as Schauffele, who started the tournament at 3 under as the No. 15 seed.
It was the second time in four years that no one scored better than Schauffele, and he left Atlanta without a trophy to show for it. Such is the nature of the FedEx Cup finale, and the importance of a strong season and a big performance in the two postseason events leading up to the Tour Championship.
"I'll hold my head up high," Schauffele said. "It was the most fun I had losing in quite some time. It's such a weird feeling. I shot 62. I lost by five. Just kudos to Hovi. He played unbelievably well the last few weeks to get himself into this position and to really just put a cherry on top for himself and his team."
Reigning U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark won what was essentially the B Flight, closing with a 65 to finish third, 11 shots behind. That was worth a $5 million bonus. Rory McIlroy had a 65 to finish fourth and collect $4 million, while Patrick Cantlay (66) was alone in fifth to earn $3 million.
Goydos gives it away
GRAND BLANC, Mich. — Vijay Singh won the Ally Challenge for his first PGA Tour Champions victory in nearly five years, mainly because of a five-putt triple bogey by Paul Goydos.
Singh closed with a 4-under 68, and he walked off the 18th green at Warwick Hills thinking he would need some help from Goydos, who was in the group behind and had a one-shot lead. Singh didn't realize the help already had arrived.
Goydos was leading by one and a birdie put of some 18 feet on the par-3 17th hole. He left that about three feet short. He rammed the par putt by the hole. He missed the three-foot bogey putt. And then he missed again from about four feet before tapping in for a triple bogey.
The 59-year-old Californian with five wins on the senior circuit retrieved the ball from the cup and stood on the green, arms crossed, trying to figure out what happened. He closed with a par for a 71, two shots behind and tied for third with fellow American players Harrison Frazar (70) and Tim Petrovic (66) as well as Canada's Stephen Ames (70).
Singh finished the 54-hole event at 14-under 202, one shot ahead of Jeff Maggert (69) of the United States.
The big Fijian walked off the 18th green and stared at a scoreboard, trying to figure out what happened behind him.
"I was 14 (under), Jeff was 13 and no ... no Goydos," Singh said. "I was surprised what he did there."
Singh, 60, won for the fifth time on the PGA Tour Champions, with this victory his first since the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in 2018. He had three straight birdies on the back nine to momentarily take the lead, only to bogey the 15th and then fail to birdie the par-5 16th.
He ended his drought on the same course where he won three times when it was a regular stop on the PGA Tour, where he had 34 career wins, including three major championships.
"For some reason, I drive the ball very well here," Singh said. "I did that this week, and I putted well. Putting has been a mystery for a long time. I found a few things out in the last few weeks, and I've been putting really well."
Clements steps up
VYSOKY UJEZD, Czech Republic — Todd Clements came through a bunched field in the final round to win the Czech Masters, shooting a bogey-free 9-under 63 to finish at 22-under 266 for 72 holes and seal a one-stroke victory.
It's the first triumph on the Europe-based DP World Tour for Clements, who will turn 27 on Tuesday.
Matt Wallace, a fellow Englishman, could have forced a playoff at the Albatross Golf Resort near Prague but pushed a 10-foot birdie putt wide on the last hole to close out a 67. He had second place to himself, finishing three strokes ahead of Denmark's Nicolai Hojgaard (69).
Clements graduated from the Challenge Tour last year and entered this tournament at No. 394 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He hadn't finished in the top 20 in any previous DP World Tour event this season, but he shot in the 60s every round at the Czech Masters.
"In the circumstances, it's my best round of golf," said Clements, who made three straight birdies on Nos. 1-3, 6-8 and 11-13 to get to 9 under after 13 holes Sunday before parring his way home.
He will be inside the world's top 200 for the first time when the ranking is updated Monday.
Khang breaks through
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — U.S. player Megan Khang beat South Korea's Jin Young Ko with a par in a playoff for her first LPGA Tour win.
After struggling most of the afternoon, Khang made a four-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th hole at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club to force the playoff. Ko hit her tee shot on the first playoff hole into the hazard left of the fairway and took a double bogey after a penalty shot.
The 25-year-old Khang hit her second shot to the fringe left of the pin on 18 and two-putted for her first win in eight years on the tour, giving her caddie a giant huge after it dropped. She shot a 2-over 74 in the final round to finish the 72-hole event at 9-under 279.