Sun, 29 Mar 2020

Norway's Hovland edges Laird for Puerto Rico lead

News24
23 Feb 2020, 16:12 GMT+10

Miami - Norwegian youngster Viktor Hovland birdied three of the last four holes to seize a one-stroke lead over Scotland's Martin Laird after Saturday's third round of the Puerto Rico Open.

Hovland, a 22-year-old ranked 102nd in the world, fired an eight-under par 64 - matching his low PGA Tour round - to finish the day on 18-under overall at Coco Beach.

"I played really well," Hovland, who was low amateur at both the Masters and the US Open last year, said. "I've just been playing really solid off the tee and hitting a lot of nice iron shots into the greens."

Laird matched the course record with a 63 to stand on 17-under, making two eagles and five birdies without a bogey.

"Today was a great day," Laird said. "The putts were going in. Nice bonus on 10 holing a wedge.

"It's a lot of fun out there when you are doing that. You just kind of let it go and ride the wave and see what you get."

American Josh Teater was third on 16-under with Argentina's Emiliano Grillo a distant fourth, three shots further back.

Hovland, whose best PGA Tour finish was fourth last year at Greensboro, birdied the par-five second and fifth holes and closed the front nine with another birdie.

He had back-to-back birdies at the 11th and 12th as well as the 15th and 16th before escaping a fairway bunker and making birdie at the par-five 18th to swipe the lead alone.

"I wasn't making a lot of shots early. I stayed calm and starting making a lot of putts on the back nine," Hovland said.

"I know I'm playing good so I know a couple of missed shots aren't going to kill me. Hopefully I'll keep playing the way I have the first three days."

The Norwegian does not want to spend too much time pondering what a breakthrough PGA win would mean.

"It would be unbelievable to have won on the tour already," he said. "But I'm just worried about playing tomorrow."

Extra work on the putting green has brought dividends for Laird this week.

"I've been hitting the ball well the last three or four events and just not putting very well," Laird said. "I worked hard on my putting when I got here this week -- that's all I did on Monday and Tuesday when I got here -- and it has paid off so far."

The 37-year-old from Glasgow is seeking his fourth PGA Tour victory and first since the 2013 Texas Open. Laird also captured the 2009 Shriners Hospitals Open and 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Laird, who hit every fairway and missed only the 18th green in regulation, eagled the second and birdied the fifth, then holed out from the fairway for eagle at 10.

The Scot birdied four of the next six holes. At 18 he went over the green and hit from the rough into a bunker, but blasted out inches from the cup and tapped in for a closing par and his best round of the season.

199 - Martin Laird (SCO) 67-69-63

204 - Patrick Rodgers 70-68-66, Sam Ryder 70-65-69

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