Hovland, Morikawa fire 64s to share Tour Championship lead

Hovland, Morikawa fire 64s to share Tour Championship lead

Norway's Viktor Hovland birdied five of the last seven holes to share the lead with American Collin Morikawa after Friday's second round of the US PGA Tour's season-ending Tour Championship.

Hovland, Morikawa fire 64s to share Tour Championship lead

World number five Hovland who won last week's BMW Championship, and two-time major winner Morikawa each fired a six-under par 64 to stand on 16-under after 36 holes at East Lake in Atlanta.

"I just started to hit my approach shots a little bit closer than I did on the front nine, started making some putts," Hovland said of his closing run.

"Felt really nice. Been driving it well really all week."

Morikawa closed with back-to-back birdies, sinking putts from 10 feet at 17 and two feet at the par-5 18th, and is the only player without a bogey so far this week.

"I felt like I had control," Morikawa said. "Maybe I wasn't hitting my number on the dot but we were within two or three yards. I'm not going to complain."

World number one Scottie Scheffler was third on 14-under after a 65 with American Keegan Bradley fourth on 13-under after a 67 followed by reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm and Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele, who fired 64 to share fifth on 12-under.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy, battling a back injury, was seventh on 10-under after a 67.

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 other rivals at lesser levels.

Scheffler opened on 71 to squander that unusual edge while Morikawa shot 61 but only shared the 18-hole lead with Hovland and Bradley due to the stagger.

The winner takes home an $18 million bonus playoff top prize.

Morikawa's 125 total for two rounds -- without the season points factor -- broke the event's 36-hole record of 127 set by Tiger Woods in 2007.

"Hit a couple of squirrelly ones. Got away with them," Morikawa said. "Made a couple of birdies out of them. I missed a few, they went where I wanted. That's all you can really ask for.

"Instead of 45 feet, maybe you've got 25 feet. That's when you're able to convert, keep the round going, hopefully keep piling birdies on after one another."

World number five Hovland, who fired a closing 61 to win last week, said he is feeling confident.

"Feels great. It starts from off the tee, when I know I'm going to put the ball in the fairway or if I miss it, it's not going to be by much," Hovland said.

"You just can't attack it if you're in the rough so if I keep putting myself in the fairway, my iron game and short game and putting feels really good enough to make some birdies."

- Weakness into strength -

Hovland ranks second in strokes gained with his short game, what had been a weak spot before working on it.

"It has been pretty incredible," he said. "Before it was when I was standing over every shot it was like, 'Don't duff it. Don't leave it in the bunker.'

"Now it's a lot of fun to just be able to open up that face and just slap the ground and put some friction on the ball."

Morikawa dropped his approach at the first hole two feet from the hole and tapped in for birdie, drove the green in two at the par-5 sixth and tapped in for birdie again, then added another birdie on an 11-foot putt at the eighth.

After getting up and down from a bunker to avoid bogey at the par-3 ninth, Morikawa sank a six-foot birdie putt at the 12th to stay on top.

Hovland reeled off four consecutive birdies to seize the lead, sinking putts from six feet at 12, 10 feet at the 13th, 15 feet at the 14th and 12 feet at the par-3 15th to reach 15-under.

"On the back nine I started making some putts," Hovland said. "You just try to build on that. Keep it going."

Hovland curled in a 10-foot putt to birdie the 17th and boost his lead, but Morikawa matched him with his closing heroics.


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