PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Viktor Hovland knows his time is coming on golf’s biggest stage. Of course, he would be fine if he would hurry up and get here already.

For the third major in a row, the 25-year-old Norwegian with an incandescent locker room and an even more vibrant game found his name hovering near the top ranking on the final day. And for the third straight major, Hovland saw someone else kick the 18 and raise their arms in triumph.

Last summer at the Old Course at St. Andrews, it was Cam Smith. Last month at Augusta National, it was Jon Rahm. On Sunday, in a suddenly forgiving Oak Hill, it was his playing partner Brooks Koepka, who spent an entertaining and occasionally tense four hours fending off one challenge after another from Hovland before walking off into the fading western New York sunlight. .

Viktor Hovland of Norway salutes after his putt on the fifth hole during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club on Sunday, May 21, 2023, in Pittsford, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Hovland’s hopes of becoming the first Norwegian to win a major were dashed on the par-4 16th hole when his tee shot went into the fairway bunker. Trailing by one shot and with Koepka’s ball raw, Hovland whipped out a 9-iron and attempted to get the ball to safety, only to see it disappear over the rim.

A drop, a punch out, an approach or so and two putts later, the deficit was four. While Hovland salvaged a tie with Scottie Scheffler for second by draining a nervous 15-footer at 18 to finish a 68-under-par to finish at 7-under-par for the tournament, the T2 next to his name is going to hurt a bit . At least until he arrives at the Los Angeles Country Club next month for the US Open.

Hovland knows he’s close. He is becoming increasingly comfortable in the demanding crucible that a commander’s spotlight provides. Four days of par or better golf on the demanding East Course proved it once again.

“I felt like I played some really solid golf,” Hovland said. “I got a lot of looks. When I was out of position, I made some great short game shots and came out of there with a couple, but Brooks was tough to catch.”

Hovland was closer than anyone, responding almost every time Koepka threatened to walk away. Koepka’s lead shot up from a shot to three after he birdied the second, third and fourth holes.

Hovland didn’t falter and got back within two after back-to-back birdies at four and five. He then spent the two hours stalking one of the standout players in the game until a dubious hit, a vanishing ball and a disgusted look on the 16th let him get away.

“It sucks right now, but it’s really cool to see things going in the right direction,” Hovland said. “If I keep going about my business and keep working on what I’ve been doing, I think we’ll get one of these soon enough.”

Every other player in the 156-man field, including Koepka, posted at least one over-par round over four challenging days on brutal Oak Hill. Hovland did not. That’s what made the result a little harder to swallow than what happened at St. Andrews and Augusta National.

Hovland was tied for the lead with Rory McIlroy heading into Sunday at the Old Course only to shoot 2-for-74, not enough to match Smith’s nearly flawless 18 holes. Hovland was three behind Koepka when he teeed off in the final round at Augusta before overshooting the green on the par-3 sixth, triggering a double bogey that essentially put him out of a serious fight.

There was no real wobble this time until the 16th. Though rather than let a 9-iron he caught too skinny get to him, he recovered two shots on the final two holes against a player eight years his senior who is among the best. players under pressure of his generation.

Hovland may soon be one of them.

“It’s not easy going toe-to-toe with a guy like (Koepka),” Hovland said. “He’s not going to give you anything, and I didn’t really feel like I gave him anything until I was 16. So I feel like I belong here, and I just have to improve a little bit, and hopefully go my way next time.