ATLANTA (AFP) — 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.
World No. 5 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 No. 1 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 No. 5 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.”