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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Viktor Hovland set for R335 million pay day at PGA Tour Championship

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Viktor Hovland shrugged off severe heat and a storm delay to seize a six-stroke lead after Saturday’s third round of the US PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship.

The 25-year-old Norwegian fired a four-under par 66 to stand on 20-under after 54 holes at East Lake in Atlanta with American Xander Schauffele a distant second.

“I can’t remember (when) I’ve led by that many shots,” Hovland said.

Temperatures soared near 100 degrees (37.7 Celsius) before a late-round storm stoppage, but neither weather nor rivals could slow fifth-ranked Hovland, who won last week’s BMW Championship and became the man to beat for the $18 million top prize.

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“I don’t think I’ve ever played this well before, with this stretch, just putting all the short game and stuff together,” Hovland said.

“I feel like I’ve hit the ball better than I have this week and even last week, but it’s just about putting it all together and it seemed like the good weeks that I’ve had before I’ve always managed to short-side myself or chip a couple times and end up out of contention.

“This year I feel like I’ve just become a little bit more complete, and I don’t have to hit it my best to be in contention. I don’t have to hit every shot pure. I can miss it slightly and get up-and-down and move on.”

Americans Collin Morikawa and Keegan Bradley shared third on 13-under with Masters champion Jon Rahm of Spain sharing fifth on 11-under with top-ranked Scottie Scheffler and his United States countryman Wyndham Clark, the US Open champion.

Starting scores in the FedEx Cup playoff finale were staggered based on season points, with top-ranked Scheffler at 10-under, Hovland next at 8-under and rivals at lesser levels.

Hovland shot 68 and 64 to share the lead after the first and second rounds, aided by the unique format.

Now he longs to join such past Cup winners as Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy.

“To win the FedEx Cup is pretty cool,” Hovland said. “The list of names that’s been on that trophy is pretty special.

“It would be awesome to have my name on there.”

– ‘Playing unbelievable’ –

Tokyo Olympic champion Schauffele, who has never fired an over-par round at East Lake, shot 68 while Hovland made five birdies against a lone bogey.

“I need to go out and try and put as much pressure on him tomorrow on that front nine as I can and hope for the best,” Schauffele said.

“He has just playing unbelievable golf. He has been working really hard. I saw him working hard through the playoffs. I was out late and he was one of the guys I always saw until dark as well. So, no surprise.”

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Hovland was about to tee off at the 12th with a four-stroke lead when a storm halted play for 75 minutes.

When he resumed, Hovland found the fairway and green then hit a 10-foot birdie putt and followed by sinking a 22-foot birdie putt at 13 to reach 20-under and lead Schauffele by six.

Hovland took his first bogey at 14, finding the left rough and pitching to the green then missing a 22-foot par putt from the fringe.

Schauffele answered a bogey at the par-3 15th with a 12-foot birdie putt at 16 to stay five adrift but Hovland responded with a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-3 15th, stretching the lead back to six.

Hovland lipped out on a seven-foot birdie putt at the par-5 18th but still matched the largest 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour this season.

It’s also the same margin McIlroy rallied from on Sunday last year to defeat Scheffler and win the Tour Championship.

Morikawa, who hadn’t made a bogey all week, shared the lead with Hovland at 16-under until a double bogey at the par-4 fifth.

Hovland birdied the par-5 sixth from three feet and sank a birdie putt at seven from just beyond 11 feet to grab a four-stroke edge at the turn.

Morikawa, a two-time major winner, and Scheffler each fired 73 to fall back.

Rahm and McIlroy each fell back with 71s, McIlroy tumbling 11 adrift.


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