Jon Rahm closes gap, Viktor Hovland's legendary shot gets upstaged and a good-natured, alcohol-infused name mixup
Kevin C. Cox
Even with a two-stroke lead to begin the Tour Championship, Patrick Cantlay was not the consensus, solo favorite to win. He shared that designation with Jon Rahm, who, while clearly in peak form, started four strokes behind Cantlay. Not an insurmountable deficit, but one you'd rather not face when betting a golfer at a short price.
Knowing what we know now—that Rahm opened with a five-under 65 and trails Cantlay now by just two—it makes a lot more sense. The World No. 1 is scorching-lava hot in these FedEx Cup Playoffs, and is being treated as such by the oddsmakers, even when spotting his opponents strokes. Considering the fact he's shot 67 or lower in his last 16 rounds on the PGA Tour, though, it would appear no lead is safe when Rahm is the one doing the chasing.
To Rahm's credit, being down four was never on his mind Thursday, the Spaniard instead opting to go out and shoot the lowest score he could.
"It's very easy to get caught up on how far back you start," said the U.S. Open champ. "I don't think I really once thought about it out there. I was just trying to post a score. My job is to hit the best shot I can each time and that's all can I control."
While Cantlay is now at 13 under on the strength of a three-under 67, Rahm again says it’s not something he’ll think about come Friday.
"I think that applies to tomorrow as well," Rahm said. "Maybe on the weekend you think about who is leading, who is not, but try to think about it as a regular event and not how much distance I got to make up."
FYI: Rahm, who is still not in the lead, is currently the solo favorite to win at +175 at the Caesars Sportsbook.
Kevin C. Cox
Viktor Hovland's legendary shot gets upstaged
Sergio Garcia set the tone early on Thursday at East Lake, holing out from 160 yards at the par-4 first. The fireworks were just getting started, as not long after Rory McIlroy pulled off some serious heroics with this shot from next to a tree:
Not quite a hole out, but arguably more impressive than Garcia's eagle, thus making it the shot of the day. McIlroy held on to that title for no more than 45 minutes. Here was Viktor Hovland soon after hitting what is easily among the shots of the season, and it also featured some tree trouble:
This shot is straight out of a game of horse, Larry Bird v. Michael Jordan style. "Up and over the tree, with hook spin, eagle." Again, shot of the year potential, right? Yeah, it wasn't even the shot of the day.
To the par-3 15th we go …
Unbelievable. The par-3 15th is not exactly a hole-in-one hole, and Harris English stepped up and pured a 225-yard 5-iron like it was a pitch-and-putt hole. Just an incredible shot in an incredible round for the Georgia Bulldog. He finished with a four-under 66, a round that featured an ace-birdie-birdie stretch at 15, 16 and 17, which made him the first player to ever play those three holes in four under par in the Tour Championship.
As for Hovland, his consolation prize was an equally strong four-under 66, which puts him one back of English at seven under for the tournament. McIlroy, meanwhile, finished with a two-under 68, getting him to four under overall.
A good-natured, alcohol-infused name mixup
Given all that's transpired in the last week on the PGA Tour, the last and I mean LAST thing we needed is more fans calling players by the wrong name. But that's exactly what happened to Harris English not long after his hole-in-one, and English had the fan who called him the incorrect name handcuffed and thrown in prison with no possibility of parole.
Just kidding. English confirmed it was a good-natured mixup, and it just so happens to be one that's a running joke on Golf Twitter. The joke is that Harris English and Hudson Swafford, two lanky, Southern-soundin' Georgia Dawgs with names that begin with H, are the exact same person. That appears to be the trap one fan fell into on the 16th hole on Thursday evening.
"He thought I was Hudson like half the people out here," English said jokingly. "I think he kind of had a couple beers. He was a little reserved. He was a fan of Abe's [Ancer], and then obviously he knew who I was, went to Georgia and all that. He just couldn't quite tell from 50 yards out who I was."
OK, an honest, alcohol-infused mistake. Happens to the best of us. Thankfully, the Hudson vs. Harris war of words that no one asked for won't be coming to a social-media app near you.