Roundup: Fowler shares lead with 2 others in Phoenix
Scottsdale, Ariz. — Rickie Fowler overcame some bad shots for a share of the lead Thursday in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Phil Mickelson compounded his mistakes and fell back.
After an hour-long frost delay at chilly TPC Scottsdale, Fowler played the first six holes in 5 under. A group behind, Mickelson took the lead at 5 under with a birdie on his eighth hole.
While Fowler finished with a 6-under 65 to tie Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama for the lead in the suspended first round, Mickelson had a 69 after dropping four strokes in a two-hole stretch.
“I made some good putts to start,” Fowler said. “Just kind of 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.”
Mickelson bogeyed the par-3 fourth after hitting short and right and failing to reach the green with his second, and unraveled with a triple bogey on the par-4 fifth. He drove out of bounds to the right, hit his second tee shot into the right bunker and three-putted from 50 feet.
“I hit a bad shot at the wrong time,” Mickelson said. “It’s the tightest hole out there. You miss the fairway 5 yards left, you’re in the wash, in the hazard. You miss it right of the bunker, you’re out of bounds. … I’m not going to dwell on the one bad one because there were really a lot of good ones.”
The best one was on the par-5 13th — his fourth hole of the day — when he hit a 252-yard hybrid approach to 21/2 feet to set up an eagle.
Winless in 48 events since the 2013 British Open, the 45-year-old former Arizona State player is working with swing coach Andrew Getson after splitting with Butch Harmon. Lefty tied for third two weeks ago at La Quinta in his season debut and missed the cut last week at Torrey Pines.
“When you don’t score as low as you feel like you’re playing, it can be frustrating, but for me, I find it to be more encouraging that I’m making a lot of birdies,” said Mickelson, the tournament winner in 1996, 2005 and 2013.
Fowler also missed the cut at Torrey Pines after winning the European Tour event in Abu Dhabi the previous week. He has four worldwide victories in the last nine months.
“I know I have been swinging well and playing well,” Fowler said. “I just didn’t make anything last week.”
Fowler opened with a birdie on the par-4 10th as the temperature crawled into the 40s, holing a 16-foot putt. He made a 35-footer on the 12th, two-putted for birdie on the 13th and made a 28-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th after hitting a 258-yard shot over the water.
“I had a good number in there,” Fowler said. “Actually, put a 5-wood in play last week, a new one.”
The top-ranked player in the field at No. 4, Fowler bogeyed the par-3 16th after drawing an awkward lie in the right bunker. He birdied the short par-4 17th, and bogeyed the par-4 18th after driving left into the water. On his back nine, he got up-and-down for birdie from a greenside bunker on the par-5 third and closed with a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-4 ninth.
Lowry birdied seven of his first 13 holes, then bogeyed the next two.
“I got to 7 under and just became a little bit tense there,” the Irishman said. “That’s something that I need to work on. … It’s a bad mistake if you don’t learn from it.”
Matsuyama was in one of the last groups to finish before play was stopped because of darkness.
India’s Anirban Lahiri was a stroke back at 66, and Bryce Molder also was 5 under with two holes left. He was one of 33 players who failed to finish.
Bubba Watson opened with a 69, finishing in fading light a day after saying he doesn’t like the renovated course and is only playing the tournament out of loyalty to his sponsors. The two-time Masters champion tied for second the last two seasons.
Ko, Jang tied in Ocala
Lydia Ko played enough golf Thursday to catch up to the lead. She just didn’t play enough to finish the rain-delayed second round of the Coates Golf Championship.
Ko, the No. 1 player in golf making her 2016 debut, was 4-under par for her round and had a 15-foot birdie putt on her final hole at the par-4 ninth hole at Golden Ocala in Ocala, Fla., when the horn sounded to stop play because of thunderstorms in the area.
Ko was 7 under for the tournament, tied with Ha Na Jang.
Jang, who opened with a 65, didn’t hit a shot Thursday. She was to tee off in the afternoon, but within an hour of play being stopped, several greens already were flooded. Play was suspended for the rest of the day and will resume on Friday.
The 72-hole tournament is scheduled to end Saturday.
Haru Nomura made seven birdies for a 66 and finished two rounds at 6-under 136.
Michelle Wie was in a large group at 4 under that included Suzann Pettersen, U.S. Women’s Open champion In Gee Chun, Lexi Thompson and Juli Inkster, who birdied her opening hole of the second round before the storms arrived.
Ko started quickly Thursday by opening with two birdies. But she birdied only one of the par 5s, though she never missed a fairway.
“I felt more comfortable today. I was pretty pleased to see all my balls finish in the fairway,” Ko said.
Ko played with Morgan Pressel, who was 3 under, and Paula Creamer, who was even. They could tell storm clouds approaching and Creamer jokingly said that play would be stopped right before they finished. All they could do was laugh when they reached the ninth green to mark their golf balls.
“At least we don’t have to go back to the range,” Pressel said.
Ko, the 18-year-old from New Zealand, is coming off a five-victory season that included her first major (Evian Championship in France) and LPGA player of the year. She conceded to having some rust during her start on Wednesday, though she was dialed in for much of her second round until the rain arrived.
“Last year was an awesome year, so much better than I ever expected,” Ko said. “Things I only dreamt of happened. But you have to forget about it. It’s a whole new year. Obviously, you come into the year with a bit of confidence, but you never know what’s going to happen.”
Pettersen started with a 73. After making the turn, she birdied five of the next six holes — the exception was the par-5 fifth hole — to get within range. Pettersen played with Stacy Lewis (1 over) and Alison Lee, with whom Pettersen was involved in a bitter rules controversy at the Solheim Cup last year over a putt that Pettersen said was never conceded. Pettersen said there was no drama with the group and the media “want to make it another story.”
“Alison and I are pretty good friends,” she said. “I’m very happy with the way I’m playing.”
McIlroy two behind in Dubai
Rory McIlroy started the defense of his Dubai Desert Classic title with a bogey but battled back to post a 4-under 68 on Thursday, leaving him two shots off the lead.
McIlroy bogeyed two of the easiest holes on the course — the par-5 10th, which was his first hole, and the driveable par-4 second — but also had six birdies to put him close behind leader Alex Noren of Sweden.
“I thought I did well, considering the start and having some of the shots I hit throughout the round,” McIlroy said. “A 68 was probably a fair reflection of how I played. I don’t feel like I could have really gone any lower than that but at the same time, I gave myself enough chances to make some birdies.”
Ernie Els, the most successful player in the history of the tournament with three titles and eight other top-10 finishes, matched McIlroy’s 68. The four-time major champion hit 17 greens and putted well with his new grip.
Four players were tied at 5-under 67 — Sweden’s Peter Hanson, Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Australia’s Brett Rumford and South African Trevor Fisher Jr.
Henrik Stenson of Sweden, playing alongside McIlroy, opened with a 3-under 69.
The new changes in the course, where the fairways have been made firmer and grass has been shaved off the fringe of the greens, troubled McIlroy, who has never finished outside the top 10 in his last six starts at the Emirates Golf Club.
On McIlroy’s first hole, his second shot landed on the green and rolled off into the back bunker, from where he needed two shots to come out. Then, on the par-5 dogleg 18th, he hit a towering draw with his driver but the ball went through the fairway and into the water hazard. McIlroy then hit a great third shot from 198 yards and walked away with an unlikely birdie.
“All in all, a decent day, decent score,” he said. “I think with the way the weather conditions are, it’s made the golf course quite tricky out there. I don’t think I’ll ever hit as many bunker shots.”