The 25-year-old from Oslo, a runner-up in last month’s PGA Championship, had not won on tour since the 2021 World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico.
Seventh-ranked Hovland, Sunday’s only player to birdie the 17th hole, and McCarthy, whose lone bogey came at 18, each fired a two-under par 70 to finish 72 holes on seven-under 281 at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
In the playoff at the par-4 18th hole, McCarthy found the right rough and pitched into the fairway while Hovland reached the green in two. McCarthy missed a par putt from just inside 12 feet and Hovland sank a par putt from just inside seven feet for the trophy.
“I’ve been playing well. I’ve just been trying to stay within myself and play my own game. Maybe before I would have fired at some pins I shouldn’t have fired at.
“I just played smart, played my game and came up clutch this time.”
Hovland contended late at the Masters before settling for a share of seventh and shared third at The Players Championship in March as well as his PGA runner-up effort, making the Memorial triumph that much sweeter.
“Feels even better after a few close calls the past few months,” he said. “It’s fun to win one of these without ball-striking it to death. Now I can rely on some other strengths as well.”
It was a gut-wrenching loss for McCarthy, who settled for his best PGA Tour result. He led down the final holes with clutch par putts only to bogey 18 in regulation and the playoff after missing the fairway off the tee.
“I battled really hard,” McCarthy said. “Heartbroken right now, but a lot of positives to take from this week. My putter kept me in it when I was a little shaky. Hit a lot of good golf shots this week.”
On a day when the average score soared above 75, top-ranked Scottie Scheffler — who made the cut on the number and began Sunday five strokes adrift — fired a 67 to finish third in 282, one shot out of the playoff.
South Korea’s Kim Si-woo, a 54-hole co-leader, was fourth after closing on 73 with Americans Jordan Spieth and Andrew Putnam on 284 and American Andrew Schenk on 285 with 54-hole co-leader Rory McIlroy, who stumbled to a 75.
‘I putted awesome’
Hovland made three birdies and three bogeys in the first 12 holes to stay within reach, then sank a birdie putt from just outside four feet at the par-5 15th and made a 27-foot birdie putt at the par-4 17th to pull one back of McCarthy.
Hovland found greenside rough at 18 but saved par from inside six feet and reached a playoff when McCarthy found left rough and missed a 23-foot par putt on his 72nd hole.
“I didn’t feel like I hit it my best the whole week,” Hovland said. “I just played really smart, really conservatively. I really relied on my short game and I putted awesome this week.”
McCarthy, ranked 55th, had a best prior finish of third at the 2021 Honda Classic.
World number 38 Kim, seeking his fifth PGA Tour victory, found water off the 14th tee and made double bogey to fall back.
Scheffler, last year’s Masters champion and this year’s Players Championship winner, made six birdies in the first 16 holes but found a greenside bunker at 17 and made his lone bogey to miss the playoff.
Four-time major winner McIlroy, who won at Dubai in January, had seven bogeys — three in a row from 12-14 — against four birdies.
Reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm, the world number two from Spain, holed out from the fairway to eagle the par-4 ninth from 159 yards. He shot 74 to share 16th on 288.
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