PGA: Viktor Hovland moves in front at Hero World Challenge

Defending champion Viktor Hovland used a string of three straight birdies to eke ahead of the pack and take the second-round lead at the Hero World Challenge on Friday in Albany, Bahamas.

The Norwegian’s 2-under 70 brought him to 5 under for the event, one shot better than Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Young and Collin Morikawa.

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Hovland’s round also featured a slam-dunk eagle at the par-5 sixth, but it was the three consecutive birdies at Nos. 13-15 at Albany Golf Club that brought him as low as 6 under, before a late bogey moved him to 5 under.

The event is an unofficial PGA Tour tournament benefiting host Tiger Woods’ foundation. The field is made up of just 20 players.

Hovland, ranked No. 12 in the world, won last year’s Hero World Challenge at 18 under for the week. The course is playing much more difficult this year in the wind.

“You’re grinding on 3-footers,” Hovland said. “It’s windy and it’s grainy, and the greens are fast so it’s not like you can just ram the putts in, you’ve got to actually kind of die the putts in and that’s when the wind can hit it a little bit harder.”

Hovland hit his third shot at the sixth hole from the first cut of rough about 84 yards from the pin. His shot plunked right in the hole without a bounce or roll.

“Hit a nice drive off the tee and kind of necked my second shot with a 3-wood out to the right in the right rough and kind of had a little weird lie on the upslope,” Hovland said. “I had 77 meters and I basically aimed it 30 feet right of the pin and I hit like a 50-degree, just trying to hit it as low as possible to try to get under the wind. And I saw it spinning at the end a little bit and I yelled ‘Go!’ and yeah, just slam-dunked right in.

“That was the first time I’ve done that.”

World No. 2 Scheffler and No. 6 Schauffele each shot a 4-under 68. While Schauffele had five birdies and just one bogey, Scheffler had six birdies — four on the back nine — and two bogeys.

Scheffler could overtake Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy for world No. 1 with a win this week.

“I haven’t really been No. 2 for a while, so I feel like if I continue to play great and win some events I’ll get back there, but it’s not going to be something that I’ll keep in the front of my mind,” Scheffler said. “It’s not something I think about when I’m practicing, it’s not something that occupies a lot of my thoughts. It’s nice to be No. 1.”

Young shot a 69 Friday and Morikawa posted a 71.

Tom Kim of South Korea (72) is in sixth at 3 under and Justin Thomas (70) is seventh at 2 under.

–Field Level Media

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