After an eventful week featuring the continued bickering between the PGA Tour-DP World Tour and LIV Golf, and the death of a monarch, it’s a Scandinavian duo who find them themselves atop the leaderboard heading into the final round of the shortened BMW PGA Championship.
Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen and Norway’s Viktor Hovland are tied at 12-under after Saturday’s second round of the DP World Tour’s flagship event and lead by one over three golfers, including Rory McIlroy.
The event was shortened to 54 holes after play was suspended Thursday and canceled Friday following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Here are three storylines we’re watching heading into the third and final round:
Hovland opened the tournament with a 64 Thursday, before play was suspended, and was tied for the lead when the second round began Saturday morning. A 68 has him tied with Kjeldsen, whose scores were flipped with Hovland, opening with 68 and then climbing up the leaderboard with a 64 Saturday.
His 8-under round was the second-best of the day, only bettered by Min Woo Lee’s 62, and he even bogeyed the first. He quickly made up ground, picking up four strokes in four holes, on four through seven, and then making five birdies on the inward nine.
“I made a few more putts today,” Kjeldsen said. “I putted decent on Thursday, but I putted well today, so there was the four shots.”
He nearly made one more putt, after leaving himself 10 feet for eagle at Wentworth’s par-5 finishing hole. But his putt just stayed high.
“It’s a game like that, isn’t it?” Kjeldsen asked. “If you only focus on the ones you miss, you’re going to have a pretty miserable time so it’s better to spend time thinking about the ones you make. I certainly try to do that.”
Hovland, meanwhile went 32 holes, this week before making his first bogey, which came on the 15th hole Saturday.
How did he rebound? Birdies at 16 and 18 to finish off his day and stay tied with Kjeldsen.
The world No. 9 credited his consistent play to his iron play, as he’s also ranked ninth this week in greens in regulation.
“My irons have been really good this week,” he said. “I think I’ve only missed a handful of greens in total for the two rounds, and that obviously alleviates a lot of pressure.”
While neither player is British, Kjeldsen has spent a lot of time over his life in the UK.
With no play taking place Friday and the tournament only being played over 54 holes following the Queen’s death, the Dane spoke to the uniqueness of the past two days.
“It was very special,” he said. “Obviously being a foreigner, but having lived here, it’s quite overwhelm to go actually feel what the queen has meant to the British people, so I was sort of taken back by that. She was obviously incredibly loved and did a great job. It was a special moment.”
Before the suspension of play Thursday, headlines this week were dominated by the drama that has come with the meeting of LIV Golfers and other pros. Several have held their own.
On the leaderboard, LIV golfers Talor Gooch and Adrian Otaegui find themselves firmly in the hunt, just two back of the leaders at 10-under-par.
Joining Gooch and Otaegui in contention is Justin Harding, two shots further back, at 8-under.
The PGA Tour’s biggest proponent, meanwhile, is just a shot back, at 11-under. McIlroy tied his lowest round at Wentworth on Saturday with a bogey-free 65 to vault into a share of third.
Should he come back to claim one of the DP World Tour’s biggest titles, he could set himself up to be just the second player to win both the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup and the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai. Henrik Stenson pulled off the feat in 2013. McIlroy is on top of the Race to Dubai standings this season, but Viktor Hovland could overtake him with a win.
McIlroy has found himself at the forefront of the LIV vs. PGA Tour debate, and has been one of the most outspoken critic of the Saudi-backed league. He said winning at Wentworth would help make his season even more special then it already has been.
“We lose a lot more than we win, so every win is big,” McIlroy said. “But with everything that’s going on around our game, everything that’s happened in this country over the last couple days, it would certainly be up there as one of most memorable. But it would be hard to put in context where it would sit alongside the other achievements that I’ve had.”
He also took the chance to point out the irony in circumstances of the shortened event. LIV Golf, you see, plays 54 holes.
“I’m excited about tomorrow,” McIlroy said. “I haven’t played one of these events, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it feels.“
“54 holes?” a reporter asked what he was referring too.
“Yeah, exactly,” McIlroy responded.
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