Norway’s Viktor Hovland defied the wild weather at Torrey Pines on Friday to fire an impressive seven-under 65 on the South Course and take a one-shot lead in the US PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open.
On a day that saw spurts of hail and wind gusts that drove the rain sideways on the scenic course overlooking the Pacific Ocean north of San Diego, California, Hovland fired eight birdies on the way to a nine-under total of 135.
He burst from a pack at eight-under with a seven-foot birdie at his final hole, the par-five ninth, after returning from a late weather delay of 49 minutes forced when the last squall of the day blew across the course.
“Felt really solid,” said the 23-year-old who claimed two PGA Tour titles last year — at the Puerto Rico Open in February and the Mayakoba Classic in December.
The first Norwegian to break into the top 15 in the world rankings, the 14th-ranked Hovland said he was prepared to cope with the weather.
“Last couple weeks I’ve been in Oklahoma and it’s been really cold, so I’ve had probably three, four layers on practicing and I think that’s helped me for this week,” he said.
“It got really cold and obviously raining and hail — being Norwegian, I think that also helps.”
Hovland’s round was four strokes better than any other produced Friday on the South Course, which will host the US Open in June.
The North Course was no picnic in the conditions, although world number two Jon Rahm of Spain said he was glad he was on the easier track on Friday where he posted a five-under 67 to join a group of six players sharing second place on eight-under 136.
“I can’t really stress how hard it can get,” said Rahm, who won at Torrey Pines in 2017 and proposed to his wife, Kelley, while on a hike along the nearby coast.
“Even being on the fairway some shots are not easy and with this wind and rain coming in and out, for those who played the North we should be really fortunate to play that course today.”
Rahm was tied with Australian Adam Scott and Americans Tony Finau, Lanto Griffin, Ryan Palmer and Patrick Reed.
Scott, Griffin and Reed all played the South Course, where Scott and Griffin both briefly led at nine-under before falling back.
Scott had the solo lead after a 21-foot eagle putt at his 15th hole — the sixth — but he bogeyed the next two before finishing with a birdie in his three-under 69.
Griffin also eagled the sixth, but gave a stroke back with a three-putt bogey at the eighth — his penultimate hole — shortly before the late storm halted play. He returned to par his final hole to cap a 69.
Overnight co-leader Reed carded an even-par 72 while on the North Course Finau matched Rahm’s 67 and Palmer posted a 70.
Hard to adjust
Scott said it was the constantly changing the conditions that were challenging.
“The wind wasn’t violent, but the temperature going down just makes that wind so heavy and the ball goes so short,” he said. “It’s really hard to adjust perfectly to that on the fly … it’s hard to all of a sudden see that the ball’s going 30 yards shorter than normal.”
A trio of players on seven-under 137 included American Robby Shelton, who climbed the leaderboard with an eight-under 64 on the North Course.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Shelton said. “I hit a lot of fairways and made a bunch of 15-footers.”
With 20 players within four shots of the lead, Hovland said that even with an ideal weekend weather forecast anything can still happen in the two remaining rounds, both to be played on the South Course.
“It’s another day tomorrow and we’ve got two more rounds left, so it’s definitely not going to roll over and give anything to you,” he said.