SCOTTSDALE – Rickie Fowler birdied the final four holes to post a 6-under-par 65 in Friday’s second round to take the lead in the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale.
Fowler sits at 13-under 129 for the tournament, a stroke ahead of fellow first-round co-leader Justin Thomas, who posted 66.
“I definitely developed my own game plan over the first, say, five years or so, here. I enjoy it, I’m looking forward to a rowdy crowd,” Fowler said.
Fowler had the place buzzing by the time he came down the stretch Friday. He rolled in an 11-foot putt on No. 16, sunk a 14-footer at No. 17 and drained one from about nine feet on the 18th hole. The final birdie capped a 5-under-par 31 on the back nine.
Thomas is in good shape as well, even though he didn’t convert late in Friday’s round.
“It’s nice to finally get off to a good start at this event,” Thomas said. “But there’s a lot of golf left, and I just need to continue to do what I’m doing and stay positive and patient and just see if we can keep doing it.”
Thomas was without a bogey in the tournament until the par-4 14th, where he couldn’t sink a nine-footer after missing the green left with his approach. He said there’s no reason to feel rushed to score because the opportunities should develop.
“I just have to stay patient and wait for it to happen,” Thomas said.
Fowler and Thomas are sharing a house during the tournament.
“We enjoy pushing each other,” Fowler said.
South Africa’s Branden Grace (64) and Trey Mullinax (64) tied for the best round of the day and moved into a tie for third place at 11 under.
Grace had a wild day, with two eagles — a hole-in-one at the par-3 seventh and a 34-foot putt at the par-5 13th — and a double bogey at No. 11. That was his only blemish of the day, and he strung together three straight birdies at Nos. 15-17.
Mullinax birdied the final hole as one of the last golfers to complete the second round, after blistering a 5-under 30 on the front nine.
Matt Kuchar (65) and Australia’s Cameron Smith (65) are at 10 under. Bubba Watson (67) and Scotland’s Martin Laird (68) sit at 9 under.
Defending champion Gary Woodland came in strong with a 67, settling at 7 under entering the weekend.
Harold Varner III, who had held a share of the lead entering Friday, shot 71 and sits at 7 under. He struggled at times, recording four bogeys.
–Field Level Media