Norwegian sensation Viktor Hovland carded a 7-under 64 on Saturday to leap to the top of the leaderboard at 15-under through three rounds of the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco. The low round positions him to earn his first PGA TOUR card with a strong finish on Sunday at Hillcrest Country Club.
“This week in Boise has a chance to be my first professional victory, so it could be pretty special here for me,” said Hovland. “If I happen to win, then I’m going to look back at this week as a pretty sweet week for me. I really like it here – the backdrop has mountains everywhere. The course is kind of narrow off the tee, you have to hit it straight…You have to take some irons off the tee and play the angles; I think it’s a great course.”
After back-to-back 67s over the first two rounds, Hovland came out of the gate hot, birdieing four of his first five holes to jump into contention. He turned in 4-under 32 before adding birdies at Nos. 12, 15 and 16 to reach 15-under. The 21-year-old ranks T2 in putting average and T12 in driving distance so far this week.
Despite making his debut in Boise, Hovland enjoyed a strong crowd throughout his round, growing especially large as he claimed the lead during the back nine.
“The crowd support has been crazy; I’m from Oslo, Norway, and I’ve been in the United States for three years now,” said Hovland. “I don’t do anything in particular to stand out, I just play my golf and try to be myself, but I’m glad people like it.”
Hovland made waves this year on the PGA TOUR with four top-25s in five starts as a professional, including a solo-fourth finish at the Wyndham Championship. He also competed in the Masters Tournament (T32) and the U.S. Open (T12) as an amateur before turning professional. He was part of a vaunted trio of newcomers on TOUR that included Oklahoma State teammate Matthew Wolff and University of California-Berkeley star Collin Morikawa. Wolff and Morikawa have already won on TOUR this season to secure their status for next season, while Hovland is looking to earn his way to the PGA TOUR through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
“It’s been a crazy journey, even so far, and I’ve only been a professional golfer for a couple of months,” said Hovland, who likely needs a top-25 finish to pass the projected points threshold to earn his PGA TOUR card. “Seeing what Collin [Morikawa] and Matt [Wolff] have done, I’m hoping to try and catch them. Looking back, I don’t think anyone could have really expected this to happen. But it’s a lot of fun.”
Another former college teammate of Hovland’s, Korn Ferry Tour rookie Kristoffer Ventura, has already secured his PGA TOUR card for the 2019-20 season through two wins during the Regular Season. The duo went hiking in the Boise foothills on Wednesday.
Veteran Rob Oppenheim carded the low round of the tournament with a 10-under 61 to rise to T2 entering the final round. Oppenheim went eagle-eagle on Nos. 2 and 3 and tacked on six more birdies to tie his best career round. Bronson Burgoon posted a 5-under 66 to equal Oppenheim’s three-day total at 14-under 199.
Sunday’s final-round tee times will run from 7:30-11:55 a.m.