LOS ANGELES: Rickie Fowler survived late miscues to share the lead at the US PGA Tour Phoenix Open alongside Bryson DeChambeau on Friday, as two-time defending champion Hideki Matsuyama withdrew injured.
Fowler, ranked seventh in the world, got off to a blazing start at TPC Scottsdale with four birdies in his first six holes. He finished with seven birdies in his five-under 66 for 10-under 132.
He pushed his lead to as many as two strokes before a bogey at 17, and DeChambeau capped his 66 with back-to-back birdies at 17 and 18 to join Fowler in the clubhouse on 10-under.
“I just feel like I’m comfortable on this golf course, I’ve had quite a few rounds here and there’s been a lot of good ones,” said Fowler, adding that his plan for Saturday was to “just keep the gas pedal down.”
Daniel Berger and Chez Reavie both signed for 65s to lie one stroke back on 133.
Scott Stallings carded a 65 to join a trio on 134 that also included Chesson Hadley and Chris Kirk, who both carded 68.
Matsuyama’s bid for a rare three-peat was over before the round began as Japan’s world number five withdrew prior to hitting a shot Friday with a left writ injury.
“The pain in my left thumb area started on 13th hole yesterday,” Matsuyama said. “I did some treatment last night, but the pain was still there this morning when I practised. I decided that it was not worth forcing myself to continue to play and worsen the injury, so I was disappointed that I had to withdraw.”
Former world number one Jordan Spieth also exited before the weekend, missing the cut by a stroke after a frustrating two days amid the raucous crowds of the Phoenix Open, where the atmosphere resembles that of a football match more than a staid golf event.
Spieth struggled to get any putts to drop as he posted rounds of one-over 72 and one-under 70 to lie one shot outside the projected cut line.
Spieth hadn’t missed a cut since the Byron Nelson in May, a run of 15 straight cuts made worldwide.
Fowler, whose history of strong showings in Phoenix include a runner-up finish to Hunter Mahan in 2010 and a playoff loss to Matsuyama in 2016, couldn’t maintain early his torrid pace on the back nine, following a birdie at the 10th with a bogey at 11.
He got back on track with bridies at 13 and 15, before a bogey at 17, where a “funky little chip” led to a disappointing dropped shot.
“I still made some good swings,” Fowler said of his inward run. “Funky little chip on 17 where we were in good position to make birdie – so a little unfortunate to make bogey. Other than that, I feel like (it was) a solid day.
“We’re in a good spot going into the weekend,” he added.
A big group on 135 included world number two Jon Rahm of Spain and five-time major-winner Phil Mickelson, an Arizona favourite who birdied his last four holes en route to a 65 that left him just three back.--AFP