ATLANTA – Exactly five weeks from now, the United States and Europe will be competing in the Ryder Cup singles matches. If there is any justice in the world of golf, it will be Victor Hovland and Xander Schoevel in that match, with the Ryder Cup at stake.
All due respect to Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Scotty Scheffler, John Rahm and all the other Ryder Cup players (in Koepka’s case, prospects), but no one is hotter than Hovland at the moment, and no one more formidable than Schavelli. The duo’s head-to-head battle in the FedEx Cup final round wasn’t exactly a match game – not when Hovland entered the day with a six-shot lead – but the result was one of the most entertaining spectacles. – Eye of Golf for the now completed 2022-23 season.
Hovland won the day and the FedEx Cup, shooting the final round 7-under and finishing the tournament at 27-under with a shutout birdie. Chauvel, who finished at 22 thanks to an 8-less day, narrowed Hovland’s one-touch lead to a field goal with six holes to play. This set up the defining moment of the tournament: Hovland made a 23-foot save in the 14th.
That saved Hovland from what would have been his third bogey of the week, and Schauffele kept three strokes back.
Schauvel said: “I had the opportunity to get to the two centers and make that bomb in (14), which was really painful.” “I had been charging all day and felt like this really put an end to me.”
Two holes later, Hovland rolled a 10-foot birdie putt to increase his lead to four. He followed that up with a birdie on the 17th, at which point, the engraving of the FedEx Cup trophy began. And after a long slog down the District 18 downhill of East Lake, he was handed the Tour championship, the FedEx Cup and a check for $18 million.
What sets Hoveland apart is its absolute tranquility. He’ll spend a lot of the first rounds of the tournament smiling, smiling even at missed shots – which there aren’t many of them these days. But on Sunday, he was completely closed off, focused only on the next shot, and the next shot, and the next moment. Just as he did last week when he won the BMW Championship with a score of 61, Hovland left the smile behind and focused with unwavering strength throughout the entire round.
Schauvelli, at this point, has a closet full of bridesmaid dresses to match his Olympic gold medal. He remains without a major, having finished at T2 level in both the Masters and The Open Championship. But he played with strange constancy, especially at East Lake. In 28 runs, he never exceeded the par. After winning the event in 2017, he has finished second three times, fourth, T5 and T7.
Schauvel was fortunate to beat Hovland head-to-head on Sunday by -8 to -7, and tied him for the absolute score for the entire tournament, -19 each. But because of the Tour Championship’s break-start system, Hovland had a five-stroke advantage even before play began on Thursday, and that was enough.
“I’ll hold my head high. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” Schavelli said. “It’s a strange feeling. I scored 62 points. I lost by five.” After that, he walked into a row of East Lake fans, signed dozens of autographs and took selfies before disappearing into the clubhouse.
“One hell of a player,” McIlroy said after the Hovland Tour. “He works incredibly hard. Nothing but respect for how he does his job. A true professional. For someone who’s still so young, he’s got a head over heels for his age.”
“He’s not too old,” Tommy Fleetwood said of the 25-year-old. “No one will be the ultimate player at that age, except maybe Tiger Woods.” “He’s really showing how good he is, and I think he’ll continue to go from strength to strength.”
The eyes of the men’s professional golf world now turn to the Ryder Cup. The leaders of the United States and Europe are due to make their selections in the coming days, and US captain Zack Johnson is set to announce his six picks on Tuesday. Several players considered themselves but dropped out on the final day of the tournament, including Colin Morikawa, Keegan Bradley and Jordan Spieth.
“It’s going to be a really cool tournament this time,” Hovland said. “It’s one of my all-time favorite moments playing on the Whistling Straights last time, but I think it can only go up this time around. So I’m really excited.”
Given how well he and the rest of his future team-mates will play, so will the Team Europe fans.