Rickie Rides 4 Birdies to Lead in Phoenix

Rickie Fowler chased Justin Thomas all day and finally passed him with birdies on each of the last four holes.

Fowler, from Murrieta, sank a nine-foot birdie putt on the last hole to cap a 6-under-par 65 and take a one-stroke lead over Thomas midway through the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale https://tpc.com/scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I missed some putts earlier, but I could have birdied the last seven holes,” said Fowler, who has won four times on the PGA Tour, but not since the 2017 Honda Classic. “I definitely love the finish here, 15 through 18.

“I hit a shot that just stayed out of a hazard at 11 and was able to save par. That was a good break and I just got going from there with a great shot and a birdie on 12. Then I made some really good putts to finish the day.”

After missing several birdies putts inside 10 feet, Fowler’s late surge left hit at 13-under 129 after 36 holes.

The fourth-ranked Thomas, who was tied for the lead with Fowler and Harold Varner III after they shot 64s in round one, was rolling along before settling for pars on each of the last three holes.

“I played really well today for the first 15 holes, but I’m disappointed with the way I played the last three holes, not to have a birdie chance,” said Thomas, who has nine PGA Tour tiles. “The difference was the way Rickie and I finished the round. I’m happy to be in the final group (with Fowler in the third round). Anytime with Rickie, it’s going to be bizarre.

“I putted really well the last two days, made some putts of decent length. My game is in a good spot and I’m looking forward to the weekend.

Branden Grace of South Africa made a hole in one on the 193-yard seventh hole and chipped in from 34 feet for an eagle on the 13th in a 64, and is one shot back in a tie for third with Trey Mullinax, who sank an eight-foot birdie putt late in the day to complete his own 64.

Matt Kuchar and Cameron Smith of Australia posted 65s and are one more down in a tie for fifth, while Bubba Watson (67) and Martin Laird (68) of Scotland are four behind in a tie for seventh, and Charley Hoffman of Poway and Byeong Hun An of South Korea are five back in a tie for ninth after both shooting 68.

Sixth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, who played nearby at Arizona State, shot 68 and is in a tied for 11th that includes defending champion Gary Woodland, who had a 67, and Varner, who totaled 71, while seventh-ranked Xander Schuaffele of La Jolla and San Diego State is tied for 40th after a 72.

Three-time Phoenix champion Phil Mickelson, who also played at Arizona State, stumbled to a 75 and missed the cut by two strokes.

For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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