2022 Dubai Desert Classic scores: Viktor Hovland grabs biggest win of his career over McIlroy, Bland


When Richard Bland made his Challenge Tour debut debut in 1998, Viktor Hovland was 9 months old. On Sunday, for the DP World Tour — a step up from the Challenge Tour which Bland has played for a big part of his career — the pair went to a playoff at the Dubai Desert Classic, which Hovland won with a birdie on the very first hole.

Hovland started the day outside the top 10 – just like Luke List did at the Farmers Insurance Open on Saturday in his first PGA Tour win – but went out in 32 to give himself a shot. He took advantage of it by closing birdie-eagle-birdie for a 66 to get into the playoff, which he said he did not see coming given that Rory McIlroy was in control of the tournament seemingly throughout. The eagle on No. 17 was particularly extraordinary. Hovland drove the green and buried the lengthy putt with the tournament on the line and horses starting to gallop behind him.

It was nearly a three-man playoff, but McIlroy, who was playing in the final group, made par at the drivable par-4 17th. He followed that up with a bogey at the par-5 closing hole after hitting his approach in the water. He needed birdie at either to win and par-par to go to a playoff.

So Hovland, after shooting the best round of the day, and Bland, who made a monster birdie at the last, took golf carts across the desert to try to settle one of the bigger DP World Tour titles of the first part of the year. They replayed the final hole on a revamped Emirates Golf Club, which they birdied in regulation. This time, Hovland repeated himself with a straightforward birdie to beat Bland, who had a putt to match him with a 4 but could not convert.

“Yeah, this is pretty wild,” said Hovland, “especially since I didn’t really think this was possible going in today. I knew I had to shoot a really low number but a lot of things had to go my way and thankful that it did.”

Everything you need to know about Hovland can be summed up by his post-round television interview with Tim Barter, who conducts many of the post-round interviews on the DP World Tour but also serves as Bland’s coach. The cameras caught Hovland apologizing (apologizing!) to Barter for beating his pupil about 30 seconds after the second DP World Tour title of his career.

The win for Hovland is his sixth in just 74 total OWGR events, which is a ridiculous winning percentage, and moves him up to No. 3 in the world, just behind Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa. Hovland was actually asked about running down that duo just after his victory.

“I have quite a lot to prove to be able to beat those guys, but this is a good start and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

It’s more than a good start. Hovland wins all over the planet – Dubai, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Germany and the Bahamas to name a few – and he’s now poised to have the best year of his still-green career.

Even though he deflected a question about major championships after his victory – “I try not to overemphasize the majors and the big tournaments,” he said – that’s where the attention of everyone who follows this sport will turn. Hovland has yet to turn in a top 10 at a major, though he’s been close. But he’ll be among the favorites going into the first few this year. How could he not be if he continues to rank in the top three in the world?

There were three terrific storylines coming down the stretch in Dubai: McIlroy setting himself up for a Masters run with a victory here; Bland getting the biggest title of his career at age 48 over two guys who will win a lot more tournaments over the next decade; and Hovland, world rankings riser and possibly the easiest player to root for of everyone in the top 25 in the world.

In the end, Hovland emerged — and that was exciting, thrilling even. More than that, though, it shined a light into the future. Two of the last six winners here have gone on to win Augusta three months later. I don’t know if Hovland is going to end up doing that, but I do know the biggest win of his career foreshadows what his entire career has foreshadowed: a whole lot more.

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