Rickie Fowler fired a six-under 65 to share the lead with fellow 20-somethings Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama. Darkness prevented a number of groups from finishing, and Round 1 play will pick up again at 7:30 a.m. local time Friday.
Beyond the bundle of birdies those near the top were making, plenty of fanfare surrounded the famous par-three 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale.
Harold Varner III riled up the crowd with his reaction to a long-range birdie putt that helped him finish in red figures at one under, per the PGA Tour:— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR)
Tired of the Cam Newton-pioneered sports celebration? Don't worry: Plenty of other players had highlight-reel shots and putts.
Lowry, in particular, had the flat iron hot in the early going, draining all kinds of putts—including his final birdie of the day at the par-three seventh, which came after two consecutive bogeys, per the PGA Tour:
Lowry has made birdies from:
- 28 feet
- 30 feet
- 25 feet
- 26 feet
Taking only 24 putts of his own Thursday, Fowler rolled the rock well and provided fans with some thrills thanks to an eagle at the par-five 15th, courtesy of the PGA Tour:
This from 28 feet ... and the outright lead.
Rickie. Fowler.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR)
Rich Lerner of Golf Channel highlighted how dialed in Fowler was from long distance on the greens:
Rickie makes a phenomenal birdie on his last hole to shoot 65. Took 24 putts, 157' worth. Scottsdale will be rocking if Rickie's rolling.— Rich Lerner (@RichLernerGC)
With plenty of length off the tee and a rebuilt swing, courtesy of his work with coach Butch Harmon, Fowler has raised his game to another level in recent years.
I made some good putts to start the round. Just kinda got everything going. Made a couple of bad swings. Cost me a little bit, but other than that, nice way to get off to a good start here. I like playing in front of the big crowds and how crazy the fans can get, and being kind of acclimated to the atmosphere here definitely helps.
Although he missed the cut in his last start at the Farmers Insurance Open, it appears he's carried at least some momentum over from his victory overseas at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. The 27-year-old is a career-best fourth in the World Golf Ranking and played like it Thursday.
Golf Channel's Justin Ray highlighted how rare the massive blunder was for Phil the Thrill at TPC Scottsdale:
Phil Mickelson's triple-bogey on the 5th hole today was his 1st triple/worse at @tpcscottsdale @WMPhoenixOpen since 1992.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC)
That big number aside, Lefty did well to get in with a two-under 69—within striking distance of Fowler, Lowry and Matsuyama.
Mickelson did have some positive moments, such as his first approach of the day, per the PGA Tour:
Phil is warmed up. 🎯— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR)
An inability to get the ball close with short irons and wedges has contributed to Mickelson's struggles over the past couple of seasons. The hope is that shot is a harbinger of improvement in that area.
Inclement weather plagued the Farmers Insurance Open, so Lowry did well to tie for 13th there. He's capitalized on the welcome change of scenery and more favorable scoring conditions thus far in Arizona.
As for Matsuyama, he had a putt inside 15 feet to take sole possession of the lead on the par-four ninth hole but couldn't convert. That area of his game has held him back from greater success in the past, so the Japanese prodigy needs to shave some strokes there for a shot at the trophy.