Viktor Hovland’s sensational par save you need to see to believe keeps him in Memorial contention

Viktor Hovland’s first event since the PGA Championship is off to a strong start.

He fired off a 3-under 69 Thursday at The Memorial Tournament, the event he won a season ago.

But Hovland remained in contention thanks to a superb par-save at the par-3 12th, which proved to be one of the most significant moments of the day. It kept his momentum alive as he added his final two birdies at 13 and 14.

Hovland hit it into a tricky spot in the front right bunker off the tee. He faced a ‘fried egg’ for his second shot, as he failed to get his ball out of the trap. But he went on to hole out for par on his next attempt. Even the young Norweigan could not believe the ball went into the hole.

“That easily could have been a double bogey,” Hovland said.

“That’s how this golf course is. You can miss it in some bad spots, and you’re going to get punished, but today, I was able to, for the most part, miss it on the right sides.”

Hovland made one eagle, three birdies, and two bogeys on the day. He hit 9-of-14 fairways and 10-of-18 greens in regulation. The 26-year-old was on damage control throughout his round but still finished under par.

“There were spots that were less than ideal, but I managed to get out of there pretty well,” he said.

“You can be just off the green and make doubles and triples around here if you’re not careful. You don’t relax too much out there. It’s a stressful place to play.”

The former Oklahoma State Cowboy has struggled this season. His first top 10 of the year came at Valhalla.

His biggest weaknesses this year have been his iron play and short game. On the season, he is 174th in strokes gained around the greens, losing -0570 shots, and 59th in strokes gained tee-to-green.

And yet, Thursday’s round marked his sixth straight round of 69 or better. Hovland returned to swing coach Joe Mayo ahead of the PGA Championship, and his game appeared to have improved immediately.

“I feel like the game has been pretty nice in practice,” Hovland said. “It’s still not quite exactly how I want it to be yet, but it’s good enough to compete, and I feel like I’m playing some good golf, so just got to keep at it and hopefully it keeps getting better and better.”

Thursday can be a crucial day on the course, especially at a tournament like The Memorial. A player cannot win on day one, but they can certainly lose. Hovland sits three shots off the current leaders on a course he must remain patient on if he wants to defend his title.

“I think shooting under par around this place, you’re never that far out,” he said. “A lot of things can happen. With the back nine, the leaders can easily fall back. If you’re playing well, you can shoot up and make up a lot of ground. But obviously, you want to be on top of the leaderboard from the start.”

Hovland will begin round two at 1:30 p.m. ET alongside Xander Schauffele as he looks to stay in contention and earn his seventh PGA Tour victory.

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, be sure to follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.

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