Scheffler, Morikawa, Hovland Survive Heat of Competition and Atlanta

Scottie Scheffler, 2023 Tour Championship, East Lake,(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Scottie Scheffler, 2023 Tour Championship, East Lake,(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

There is such a thing as acclimating to heat. In the case of the PGA Tour, it has a double meaning.  There’s the matter of getting used to the actual 95-plus degree temperatures of Atlanta during the Tour Championship.

Then there’s the mental and physical pressure of the heat of competition. The highest-level golfers welcome the latter. They look forward to it, relish it. They want to overcome it.

Now, after weeks of actual too-hot-to-touch conditions on the PGA Tour and scores that have been like a blast furnace, this week at the Tour Championship is the grand finale for both.

Atlanta has been an ice-cream-melter, egg-on-the-sidewalk-fryer, deodorant-failing, shade-seeking week. And yet golfers were burning up the course with great shotmaking, looking as relaxed as they might when playing on a cool spring day.

"“Frank, they make it look so easy,” Colt Knost quipped to Frank Nobilo on Golf Channel."

Whether it was the actual temperature or the pressure of being chased in round one of the Tour Championship, Scottie Scheffler let plenty of players back in the tournament when he opened with a 1-over par score of 71. Collin Morikawa, for instance, posted 10 shots better, a 61, which was definitely a hot score. He said he found something in his game, but he wouldn’t reveal what it was.

On Friday at the Tour Championship, the temps of Atlanta ramped up.

In round two of the Tour Championship, the over-the-top temps of Atlanta ramped up, and so did the pressure on the course.

That didn’t seem to matter to Scheffler, Morikawa, or Viktor Hovland who used it to cook up great rounds.

“Frank, they make it look so easy,” Colt Knost quipped to Frank Nobilo on Golf Channel.

And East Lake isn’t easy.

Hovland, who had his own 61 last week at Olympia Fields, kept rolling. He birdied the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th to take the lead by two strokes over Scottie Scheffler.

Curt Byrum on Golf Channel called Hovland a legitimate threat.

All you can say for sure is that spending so much time in college at Oklahoma State taught the Norwegian how to play in the heat, because he wasn’t having a problem with it.

But that wasn’t all that happened. Hovland explained getting on a run in tournaments.

"“You just think back and, oh, I’ve hit three, four really good iron shots, and I’ve made three, four really good putts in a row. Let’s just keep it going,” he said. “It’s kind of — it’s as simple as that. That’s the way I’m thinking and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.”"

The last couple of weeks, it’s been working.

Morikawa’s fix to his game wasn’t a fluke. He played steady golf and posted his own 64, tying Hovland when he made birdie at the final hole.

"“If I was going to tell myself I was going to be 16-under through two days, with my total score or whatever you want to call it, I would have taken that,” he admitted after round two.  “There’s going to continue to be low scores this weekend. Greens are starting to firm up. You’re still going to see guys firing at pins.”"

Scheffler kept making the occasional birdie as he needed them, until the 18th. He finished with a par for a 65, just one back of the two leaders at the Tour Championship.

"“I would like to be in the lead,” he said after his round. “I was actually closer to the lead after yesterday’s round. That’s how weird this format is.”"

Meanwhile, Jon Rahm had his own 65, and was at 12-under, and Xander Schauffele’s score in round two was one better at 64. He was also at 12-under par.

"“No matter what you’re using off the tee, you have to put the ball in the fairway and then afterwards you have to attack,” Rahm explained. “There’s always going to be somebody having a good day shooting 65 or lower.”"

“The course will eat you alive if you’re not in the fairway,” Schauffele said. “If you try and run up this leaderboard, you got to start from the fairway.”

He said he watched Rory McIlroy make a run at it, so he knows it can be done.

Next. Will a late injury derail Rory's FedEx Cup aspirations?. dark

There are two more rounds left, and tomorrow’s will supposedly be in 99-degree heat, one degree lower than was promised earlier in the week.  It seems the only thing left for them after that is ghost pepper hot sauce.