Fowler sets course record, races to title

In an extraordinary display of driving and putting that set the course record of 11-under 61, Fowler deservedly claimed the million-dollar top prize in the $3.5-million Hero World Challenge.

Rickie Fowler (right) poses with the trophy which he received from Tiger Woods and Pawan Munjal after winning the Hero World Challenge in Albany, Bahamas, on Sunday.   -  Special Arrangement

Seldom has a player carried a five-stroke overnight lead to finish runner-up. Tried as hard as he did, Charley Hoffman could do very little to stop Rickie Fowler from winning by four strokes.

In an extraordinary display of driving and putting that set the course record of 11-under 61, Fowler deservedly claimed the million-dollar top prize in the $3.5-million Hero World Challenge here.

But spare a thought for Hoffman, leader for the past two rounds. On the PGA Tour, he has never won a title as a final-round leader. This was the fourth instance when he blew away a handy lead, last being the 2017 RBC Canadian Open.

Fourth round scores:

270 – Rickie Fowler (US) (67, 70, 72, 61); 274 – Charley Hoffman (US) (69, 63, 70, 72), 276 – Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) (66, 69, 74. 67), Jordan Spieth (US) 68, 67, 72, 69) 277 – Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) (71, 66, 72, 68), Patrick Reed (US) (72, 66, 71, 68), Justin Rose (Eng) (68, 68, 71, 70), 278 – Francesco Molinari (Ita) (69, 68, 71, 70)

280 – Tiger Woods (US) (69, 68, 75, 68), Matt Kuchar (US) (67, 70, 72, 71); 281 – Justin Thomas (US) (69, 70, 74, 68); 287 – Kevin Kisner (US) (70, 72, 75, 70), Alex Noren (Swe) (73, 69, 74, 71), 288 – Daniel Berger (US) (75, 73, 70, 70)

Dustin Johnson (US) (68, 72, 76, 72); Kevin Chappell (US) (68, 70, 74, 76); 289 – Henrik Stensen (Swe) (70, 71, 77, 71); 291 – Brooks Koepka (US) (71, 78, 72, 70).

Even as Hoffman struggled to find birdies and eventually managed a par round, Fowler quietly but astonishingly birdied the first seven holes and added one more on the ninth. On the back nine, he fired three more that was enough to give a handsome four-stroke victory.

“It was pretty special,’ said the champion and continued, “I knew I was going to have to go out and get him (Hoffman). I was not expecting seven (birdies) out of the gate but I’ll take it.”

Hoffman, who started with a birdie to go 15-under, birdied one more time but bogeyed twice to take the turn at even-par for the day. Coming in, Hoffman found nothing more than a par on every hole. Indeed, it was heartbreak for Hoffman but then, Fowler deserved every bit of glory this week for the way he bounced back after starting the day seven strokes off the lead.

Anything less than a record-making round from Fowler, the title-race would have been nothing more than a footnote this week that where the focus hardly left Tiger’s comeback performance.

Having stepped aside following a 75 on Saturday, Tiger was back with a vengeance. There was no sign of back-pain from Tiger has he drove powerfully and putted with ease. He buried an eagle and drained six birdies. What held Tiger from finishing much higher were the double-bogey on the 10th before a bogey-bogey finish.

But it did not matter. Tiger proved a lot of skeptics wrong and exceeded expectations with his quality of golf. He shot 17 birdies this week and needed 28 putts in every round except the second when he used the putter 26 times.

Last year, Tiger shot most birdies – 24 – but finished a distant 15th. For the record, Tiger carded rounds of 69-68-75-68 compared to last year’s 73-65-70-76.

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