Viktor Hovland closes in on FedEx Cup title with big lead at Tour Championship

AP photo by Mike Stewart / Viktor Hovland waits for his turn to putt on the 15th green at East Lake Golf Club during the third round of the Tour Championship on Saturday in Atlanta. He heads into the final round of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup finale with a six-shot lead and a strong chance of winning the $18 million first prize.

ATLANTA — Viktor Hovland can't remember playing this well with every aspect of his golf game, and he can't think of a better time for it to all come together.

One more round of that, and the 25-year-old from Norway will have $18 million to show for it, along with his name on the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup trophy.

Hovland delivered another sterling performance Saturday in the Tour Championship, shooting a 4-under-par 66 that allowed him to pull away from an all-star cast of contenders and build a six-stroke lead going into the final round of the season at East Lake Golf Club.

"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."

In that stretch, no one has played better than Hovland.

He broke the course record at Olympia Fields Country Club last Sunday with a 9-under 61 that allowed him to surge past Scottie Scheffler and win the BMW Championship, the second of three tournaments in the FedEx Cup postseason. He has not let up at East Lake, even in the extreme heat provided by late summer in Georgia.

Hovland was tied with Collin Morikawa to start the sun-baked 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 Thursday at 8 under 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 four-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 had a three-way share of the lead after Thursday's play and was still in first place after 36 bogey-free holes. On Saturday, though, he 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 — and just one was for a birdie — late in his round of 73 that tied him with Rahm (71), leaving both nine shots behind and out of legitimate contention for the FedEx Cup title. U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark had only one bogey in his round of 68 to join Scheffler and Rahm at 11 under.

Hovland still has one round left, and last year was an example that perhaps no lead is safe. Scheffler started the final round with a six-shot lead over Rory McIlroy, only to shoot a 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."

Don't expect another McIlroy miracle. After starting the tournament with back trouble and starting the third round six shots behind, he 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.

Hovland did not make a bogey 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 hot and humid day, leading to the 90-minute delay. When the 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 seven-foot birdie putt as darkness fell.

"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."

In addition to a lot of money and a trophy, the FedEx Cup winner receives a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour. For Hovland, it also might be enough to at least merit consideration for PGA Tour player of the year, having also won the Memorial Tournament 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."

Jaeger, Pancake will co-host tournament

Stephan Jaeger, who made 26 cuts this season to lead the PGA Tour, and Brooke Pancake, a former three-time All-American at the University of Alabama who later played on the LPGA Tour, are co-hosting a Chattanooga First Tee & Friends fundraising event on Monday, Oct. 16, at the Chattanooga Golf & Country Club.

Jaeger and Pancake both played at Baylor School.

The four-member teams will play a scramble format, with the shotgun start at 12:30 p.m. For information, contact First Tee of Chattanooga program director Tim Haralson at

First Tee is an international development organization introducing golf to young people.