Red-hot Hovland and more: 3 things to watch for the Tour Championship final round

Viktor Hovland of Norway reacts on the 13th green during the third round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on August 26, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Viktor Hovland is in command at the Tour Championship.

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After a third round where it seemed most players were backing up instead of moving forward, the world’s hottest golfer didn’t stutter.

Viktor Hovland fired a third-round 66 to open up a six-shot lead over Xander Schauffele heading into the final round of the Tour Championship, with the $18 million FedEx Cup first-place prize at stake.

However, as we saw last year, with that kind of money at stake, not even a six-shot lead is safe at East Lake. But after picking up his second win of the season last week, Hovland looks unshakable.

With the final round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs upon us, here are three storylines to watch during the final round of the Tour Championship.

Viktor winner again?

Last week’s BMW Champion used his second win of the season to spring up to the second-best starting score this week.

From there, Hovland was tied for the 18- and 36-hole leads before making five birdies against one bogey Saturday to pull away from the field.

On the heels of a season where he had two top-10s in majors, a T3 at the Players and two wins in the PGA Tour’s signature events, Hovland feels like he’s taken his game to a new level.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played this well before, with this stretch, just putting all the short game and stuff together,” he said Saturday night. “I’ve certainly hit the ball this good before. I feel like I’ve hit the ball better than I have this week and even last week, but it’s just about putting it all together.”

That was apparent Saturday when he made just one mistake in an otherwise steady round. Not even a 75-minute rain delay could slow him down.

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Should he win Sunday, the 25-year-old would collect his sixth PGA Tour win, doubling his career total entering the year.

Xander Schauffele: East Lake killer

It should surprise absolutely no one that Xander Schauffele is in contention once again.

Since Schauffele’s rookie season in 2017 (when he won the playoff finale), he hasn’t finished outside the top 7. In that time period, he’s posted a scoring average of 67.15.

On a day when Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy all shot over par, Schauffele seemed to be the only player other than Hovland moving forward on the leaderboard.

He stumbled a bit in the middle of the back nine and starts the final round a distant six shots behind, but if there’s anyone Hovland should fear on this golf course, it’s Schauffele.

“I know what I need to do. I need to go out and try and put as much pressure on him tomorrow on that front nine as I can and hope for the best,” Schauffele said.

Rahm and Scheffler going the wrong way

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Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler, the Tour’s two best players during the regular season, picking up a combined six wins, a Masters, a Players Championship and a combined $37,536,950 in winnings, went the wrong way Saturday.

Scheffler posted a 73, the same score he mustered in the final round a year ago, while Rahm shot 71 to both fall to 11 under and nine behind Hovland.

Unless Rahm is able to mount a herculean comeback on Sunday, he’d continue a drought going back to 2015 of the No. 1 player during the FedEx Cup regular season failing to win the overall title.

Scheffler failing to win would mark the third time in the five years since the Tour Championship switched to a staggered start format that the player starting at 10 under did not win the FedEx Cup either.

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at