Viktor Hovland is defending his title just fine so far, as the 2020 World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba winner grabbed the lead Saturday after three rounds in Mexico.
Hovland, who birdied the 72nd hole to claim a dramatic one-stroke victory in last year’s tournament, shot a 9-under 62 in his third round to take a two-stroke lead at 19 under.
A penchant for recovery — leading to nine birdies — defined the Norwegian’s big day.
“I’d say today it was a step above the first two days, but it was still really, really good,” Hovland said. “I feel like still today I hit a couple bad iron shots, but I was able to get those up and down, and a couple of wedges that I didn’t really hit as close as I should have.”
Hovland now has a chance to become the tournament’s first ever back-to-back winner.
“Yeah, it’s a pretty cool feeling because obviously … there’s been some stuff that hasn’t really been indicative of being the leader after 54 holes,” Hovland said. “I’m really happy that I’ve kind of overcome the adversity the way that I have and just stuck to my game plan and been patient.”
Hovland is making his run with a loaned driver, as he shattered his own during a speed drill.
“It’s a little bit shorter, it’s a different shaft, but honestly, almost helped me this week because it’s a little shorter,” Hovland said. “It probably goes 10 yards shorter, but I just felt like I could really hit it a little lower and a little straighter. So I’m hitting that thing really well.”
The loaner came from James Hahn, who in addition to his tremendous sportsmanship, is having a decent tournament of his own. He shot a 3-under 68 Saturday and sits in a seven-way tie for 10th place at 11 under.
Hahn is tied with Brendon Todd, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, Ireland’s Seamus Power, Denny McCarthy, John Huh and Michael Thompson.
A shot ahead of that group at 12 under is Aaron Wise, who finished second a year ago and posted an 8-under 63 Thursday. He is tied with Andrew Landry and Scottie Scheffler.
Talor Gooch (63) moved up to second in the field, alone at 17 under. He’s within striking distance, two strokes behind Hovland heading into the final day. Also within striking distance is Justin Thomas (16 under), who fired a 7-under 64.
“I’ve been in the final group a few times and it’s always — I mean, it’s what you play golf for,” Gooch said. “This is at the highest level in the final group on Sunday and to do it with two of the best players in the world right now, two Ryder Cuppers, that’s what it’s about.”
Thomas is followed in the standings by Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz (14-under) in fourth place, and J.J. Spaun and Sergio Garcia, who are tied for fifth at 13 under.
Matthew Wolff, who led the first two rounds thanks to a career-tying 61 in Round 1, fell into a tie for 17th after carding a 74 on Saturday. He sits 10 under going into Sunday’s final round.
–Field Level Media
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