The conditions were ripe for the picking at Albany in the third round of the 2022 Hero World Challenge. With players jockeying for position for much of the day, it was the overnight leader Viktor Hovland who ultimately made the biggest of moves. Carding 10 birdies against two bogeys, the world No. 12 enjoyed the round of the tournament, signing for an 8-under 64 to sit at 13 under and extend his lead to three strokes.
"It was great, I just kept making birdies," said Hovland. "It was weird. Midway through the round I made a lot and it didn't really feel like I had made that many. I kind of just kept playing golf and kept making putts. I stood on the 18th hole 9 under par. That was pretty sweet."
Hovland was the beneficiary of some luck as well; players played the ball down for the first time all week. With Cameron Young, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas and many more experiencing noticeable mud on their golf balls throughout their rounds, Hovland was able to avoid such fate.
The result for Hovland is a three-stroke lead as he attempts to successfully defend his crown from a year ago. Proving to be capable in this setting, the 25-year-old has already gone back-to-back on the PGA Tour -- the 2020 and 2021 World Wide Technology Championship -- and looks prime to do so once again.
1. Viktor Hovland (-13)
Entering the third round with a one-stroke lead, Hovland saw himself drift as many as two strokes behind during his front nine. Riding six back-nine birdies to the round of the tournament, he is now in an enviable spot three clear of the field. Crediting his putting and the calm conditions for the strong play, if the wind continues to lie down on Sunday, another low round could be in store.
"I kind of putted terrible the first two days, but I attribute that a lot to the wind," said Hovland. "My strengths are really feeling the slope with the feet and when it starts blowing 30 mph, it's hard to feel balanced enough to feel some of the nuances. Then as well, you have to play with the wind, so it was a lot easier today when it wasn't as windy and I started everything on line and just felt like I was going to make everything."
2. Scottie Scheffler (-10)
T3. Justin Thomas, Cameron Young (-8)
T5. Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele (-7)
7. Jon Rahm (-4)
8. Sepp Straka (-3)
T9. Sam Burns, Tony Finau (-2)
Morikawa entered the final round a year ago with a six-stroke advantage only to implode and be tracked down by Hovland. One year later, perhaps the two-time major champion can return the favor as he will begin Sunday six off the pace set by the Norwegian. While a victory won't mean an ascension to world No. 1 like it would have last year, it would mark his first trip to the winner's circle in more than a year.
"Just go low," Morikawa said of his game plan for the final round. "I've got to make birdies and if I just kind of get things rolling like I did at the beginning of that kind of back nine, hopefully we can just put together 18 of those and post a low number. That's all I can do really tomorrow. Can't control those guys."
Tiger steals show from broadcast booth
The 15-time major champion may not be competing this week, but that doesn't mean Tiger Woods is out of the public eye. Joining the television broadcast on Saturday, Woods spoke on his motivational level to win again, his son Charlie and even revisited the emotional 150th Open at St. Andrews.
"It all of a sudden just started hitting me that I might not be back here again as a competitor and I started to kind of tear up a little bit," Woods said of his memorable walk up the 18th hole at the Old Course. "I said, 'Would you just suck it up and make a birdie here?'"
2022 Hero World Challenge updated odds and picks
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Viktor Hovland: 4/6
- Scottie Scheffler: 14/5
- Justin Thomas: 11-1
- Cameron Young: 16-1
- Xander Schauffele: 20-1
- Collin Morikawa: 28-1
Three strokes is not insurmountable and Hovland is well-aware of this having come back from six in 2021. The dynamic between he and Scheffler in the final pair should be interesting as they were in a similar position at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which ultimately went the way of the Texan. I think it will come down to just them two as it did last year, and the result will be the same with Hovland raising the trophy.