Nassau [Bahamas]DECEMBER 4 (ANI): On a day when the relentless winds of Day 2 in Albany made counting difficult, Scottie Scheffler (68) had a magic stretch of four birdies in five holes at the World Challenge.
Despite Scheffler’s fine 68, Viktor Hovland (69-70) kept the lead. Scheffler switched to 4-under and finished second alongside Xander Schauffele (72-68), Collin Morikawa (71-69) and Cameron Young (71-69).
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Hovland, who had three Eagles last year when he won the Challenge, already has two in two days this year as he attempts to become the first player to win back-to-back Hero World Challenge titles since Tiger Woods in 2007. Scheffler is the only other player with an eagle this week.
Despite the wind, the quality of golf on the 20-man course was superb, with 10 players under par in the second round and another scoring an even par 72. Nine players are under par for 36 holes and another three are even par.
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Scheffler, who could return to world No. 1 with a win this season, was down twice in his front nine and then returned a shot in the 10th. Then followed a five-hole stretch from the 11th to the 15th where he holed four birdies only to drop another shot for an a68 on the 17th.
This 68 was equalized by Xander Schauffele and was the best round of the day. With Collin Morikawa (71-69), Cameron Young (71-69) and Xander Schauffele (72-68) also showing great skill in the conditions, there was a four-way tie for second place behind leader Hovland.
Scheffler made it clear that he doesn’t like being No. 2, either in this event or in the rankings. “I don’t like being number 2,” he said. “I don’t like being second.” He needs to win to take care of both after a year in which he has already won four times. Scheffler was runner-up behind Hovland in 2021.
While Hovland’s near-ace on the par-4 14 en route to an eagle was the talk of Day 1, his slam-dunk eagle with a pitching wedge from just under 85 yards in sixth place was the second-round shot.
It was his second Eagle of the week and Hovland then ran three birdies in a row from 13th to 15th, but two bogeys on each side of the course meant only a 2-under 70. But at 5-under he leads by a margin Scheffler, Collin Morikawa (69-71) and Cameron Young (71-69).
Hovland could be the man this week if the wind keeps up. His experience of windy conditions in Europe will help with that. Hovland, who said before the tournament he wasn’t happy with his shots, was pretty good even in windy conditions.
“It’s kind of weird like I knew it was windy and I feel like I missed so many putts,” Hovland said. “And I still don’t feel like I’m hitting very well. I’m not comfortable with the ball but the ball goes straight and I’m giving myself looks.”
Korean youngster Tom Kim (69-72) continues to impress and gain popularity. After a bogey-free first day, he even carded par 72 and sole sixth on day two, one shot ahead of Justin Thomas (72-70) in sole seventh.
As he left the course, Kim was scrolling his phone for World Cup results while South Korea was playing. He asked in disbelief, “Did you win?” And then he laughed and added, “Goosebumps” while stretching out his arms. Korea is now in the round of 16 of the World Cup.
Kim, who was bogey-free on day one, dropped two late bogeys on the 16th and 17th to finish level. When asked about his golf after hearing about the football scores, he said: “That news was probably a lot better than my golf. Wow.”
He then added: “It was tough out there today, the wind was really blowing. I played well. And obviously it wasn’t the finish I wanted, but even par on the PGA Tour, and you don’t drop a lot of spots, you’re just a few spots behind, that’s a good sign.”
Xander Schauffele with five birdies against a bogey included great wedge play to move into second place.
Usually scores are low at this event, but a leader with 5-under suggests something different this time. The weekend could bring drama. The course, which was soaked due to rain on Wednesday and Thursday, now appears to have dried up due to winds up to 30mph.
Sepp Straka, one of the four leaders on Day 1, fell back to tied eighth after shooting 74 with just one birdie against three bogeys. (ANI)
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