Hovland shoots 66 for six-shot lead at Tour Championship to close in on FedEx Cup title
ATLANTA (AP) — Viktor Hovland can't remember playing this well with every aspect of his game, and he can't think of a better time for it to all come together.
One more round of that and he'll have $18 million to show for it, along with his name on the FedEx Cup trophy.
Hovland delivered another sterling performance Saturday in the Tour Championship, a 4-under 66 that allowed him to pull away from an All-Star cast of contenders and build a six-shot lead going into the final round of the season at East Lake.
“The list of names that's been on that trophy is pretty special,” Hovland said. “It feels more like a sprint. Obviously, it's a marathon getting into this week. But it's hard to win the FedEx Cup if you haven't played well the last few weeks.”
No one has played better.
He broke the course record at Olympia Fields on Sunday with a 61 that allowed him to surge past Scottie Scheffler and win the BMW Championship. He has not let up at East Lake, even in the extreme heat.
The Norwegian star was tied with Collin Morikawa to start the sunbaked third round, with Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele all lined up behind him. No one could keep pace, especially after a 90-minute stoppage because of storms in the area.
Hovland, who started at 8-under par as the No. 2 seed, was at 20 under.
Schauffele, who has never finished worse than seventh or shot worse than par in his seven years playing the Tour Championship, had a 68 and was at 14 under. All he could think about was a pair of 4-foot putts he missed on the back nine — for par at No. 15, for birdie on the closing hole — knowing how much ground he had to make up.
“Not good enough,” Schauffele said about his round.
Morikawa didn't make a birdie until the 16th hole in his round of 73, leaving him seven shots behind with Keegan Bradley, who had to birdie two of the last four holes for a 70.
Scheffler only started making putts — only one for birdie — late in his round of 73 that tied him with Rahm (71), leaving both nine shots behind and out of contention for the FedEx Cup title.
Hovland still has one round left, and last year was an example that no lead is safe. Scheffler started the final round with a six-shot lead over Rory McIlroy, only to shoot 73 as McIlroy rallied for a 66 to beat him by one.
“I know what I need to do,” Schauffele said. “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.”
Hovland played bogey-free on the front nine as so many contenders were slowed by mistakes.
Bradley had three bogeys in a four-hole stretch. Scheffler three-putted from 12 feet, missing his par putt from 30 inches on the par-5 sixth. Rahm drove into the water on No. 8 for a double bogey and didn't make his first birdie until the 12th hole.
And then clouds began to appear on another day of extreme heat, leading to the 90-minute delay. When players returned, Hovland made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 12th and a 20-footer on the next hole.
At one point he stretched his lead to seven shots, and it looked as though that's how he would end the day until he missed a 7-foot birdie putt as darkness fell on East Lake.
“He’s just playing unbelievable golf,” Schauffele said. “He’s been working really hard. I saw him working hard through the playoffs there. I was out late and he was one of the guys I always saw until dark as well. So, no surprise.”
The FedEx Cup comes with an $18 million bonus ($17 million in cash) and a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour. It also might be enough to at least merit consideration for Hovland as PGA Tour player of the year, having also won the Memorial and a FedEx Cup playoff event.
“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’ve certainly hit the ball this good before. I feel like I’ve hit the ball better than I have this week and even last week.”
U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark had only one bogey in his round of 68 that left him in the group with Scheffler and Rahm.
McIlroy, who started six shots behind, had three bogeys on the front nine and didn't make a birdie over his last seven holes for a 71. He was 11 shots back.
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