Defending champ Hovland fires 62 to grab Mayakoba lead

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Norway's Viktor Hovland fired a nine-under par 62 on Saturday to seize a two-stroke lead after the third round of the US PGA Mayakoba Championship (AFP/Mike Ehrmann)

Defending champion Viktor Hovland of Norway closed with back-to-back birdies to fire a nine-under-par 62 and seize a two-stroke lead after Saturday's third round of the US PGA Mayakoba Championship.

The European star's bogey-free round, the lowest of his US PGA career, left him on 19-under 194 after 54 holes at El Camaleon Golf Course in Mexico.

Hovland was only one off the course record 61 set Thursday by American Matthew Wolff, who stumbled from the lead with a 74 Saturday to fall nine adrift.

American Talor Gooch was second on 196 after shooting a bogey-free 63 with countryman Justin Thomas on 197 after a 64. Mexico's Carlos Ortiz was fourth on 199 with Spain's Sergio Garcia and American J.J. Spaun on 200.

Hovland suffered a broken shaft on his driver Wednesday night and has found success with a backup loaner from US rival James Hahn.

"I'm happy I've overcome the adversity and stuck to my game plan and had some success," Hovland said. "It felt pretty straight. It wasn't much of an issue at all.

"I might have to give it back but I'm sure we can figure something out."

Hovland birdied the par-4 second and par-3 fourth then added birdies at the par-5 fifth and seventh. He began the back nine with back-to-back birdies and added another at the par-5 13th.

Hovland pitched from off the green at 17 and tapped in for birdie, then holed a five-foot birdie putt at 18 to secure his spot at the top.

Gooch had three birdies and an eagle over the last six holes to leap into Sunday's final duo.

"It's a funny game," Gooch said. "I had missed a few good birdie opportunities. You start getting impatient out there.

"I made about a 25-footer for birdie at 12 and knocked in an eagle putt, then missed my first green of the day and chipped in for birdie. That's golf. You never know when your time is going to come."

Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship and 2021 Players Championship winner, birdied four of the first seven holes on the front nine and three of the first five on the back side in a bogey-free round.

"It's really just staying patient," Thomas said. "You have like pockets on the course you can really get after and attack.

"It's a fun place to play. You can go low but if you aren't playing well it's easy to get in trouble."

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