Saturday’s roundup: Danny Lee takes Phoenix Open lead

John Nicholson
Associated Press

Scottsdale, Ariz. — Danny Lee knew there was a huge crowd Saturday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He still was amazed when told just how many people packed TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course.

“Two-hundred thousand?” Lee asked, making sure he heard right.

Actually, an estimated 201,003 — the largest crowd in golf history.

“Wow! This is crazy,” Lee said.

Lee had some pretty good numbers of his own on a sunny, warm afternoon at golf’s biggest party, shooting a 4-under 67 to move three strokes ahead of friend Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama with one round left.

“Taking slow breath out there really helps,” Lee said about the wild atmosphere.

The previous largest crowd at the Stadium Course was 189,722 in 2014. The event also set a day record Friday at 160,415, and has drawn 553,035 for the first six days — close to the weekly mark of 564,368 set last year.

“I’m just trying to enjoy myself and I am,” Lee said. “It’s so much fun out there, so many people just cheering for Rickie instead of me, unfortunately. But I’m having fun.”

Lee had six birdies and two bogeys to reach 13-under 200. The 25-year-old South Korean-born New Zealander won the Greenbrier Classic last year for his first PGA Tour title.

“Winning at the Greenbrier Classic gave me a lot of confidence,” Lee said. “It kind of taught me how to be on the top and what I need to work on and what it takes to win a golf tournament.”

He’s making his fourth appearance in the event after missing the cuts the last three years.

“I always struggled with my tee-shot game out here,” Lee said. “This week, I have been driving it really nicely.”

Fowler parred the final five holes for a 70. Matsuyama had a 68.

“I just didn’t get much out of the round,” said Fowler, at No. 4 the top-ranked player in the field. “Just kind of managed it well and played with what I had to get around.”

Second-round leader James Hahn had a 74 to fall into a tie for seventh at 7 under. Tied with Lee for the lead at 12 under after the 11th hole, he dropped five strokes on the next three holes.

Hahn bogeyed the par-3 12th and made double bogeys on par-5 13th and par-4 14th. He drove left into the desert on 13, then hit his tee shot out-of-bounds to the right on the long, uphill 14th after a fan distracted him at the top of his swing.

Lee birdied Nos. 2-4, making a 21-footer on the par-4 fourth, and holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-4 eighth.

After a three-putt bogey on the par-4 11th left him tied with Hahn, Lee got up-and-down for par from the greenside bunker on 12 to pull ahead. Hahn and Fowler bogeyed the hole from the same bunker.

Lee birdied 13, but gave back the stroke with a bogey on the par-5 15th after driving left into the water. The 2008 U.S. Amateur champion got back to 13 under with a 9-foot birdie putt on the short par-4 17th.

Fowler got a break on the 15th when his hybrid from the right rough ballooned short and right and stopped a foot short of the water.

“It came out soft and floated on me,” Fowler said. “Got a little lucky there.”

He won two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi for his fourth worldwide victory in nine months.

Matsuyama chipped in for birdie on the par-4 14th and two-putted for birdie on 15. The 23-year-old Japanese player tied for second last year, a stroke behind Brooks Koepka.

“I didn’t putt very well today,” Matsuyama said through a translator. “I didn’t drive the ball very well, but I did get it around. I’m happy with that.”

Bryce Molder and Boo Weekley were 9 under. Molder closed with an 18-foot putt on the par-4 ninth for a 64, the best round of the week. Weekley birdied three of the last four holes for a 65.

Phil Mickelson was 8 under after 65. The 45-year-old former Arizona State player made an unlikely birdie on 15 when his hybrid from 255 yards went so far right that it crossed the lake and ended up in the 11th fairway. He hit a wedge to 15 feet and made the putt.

“It was the worst shot of the year and I ended up making a birdie,” said Mickelson, the tournament winner in 1996, 2005 and 2013.

Bubba Watson had his first over-par round ever at TPC Scottsdale, shooting a 73 to drop to 2 under. He shot par or better in his first 36 rounds in the tournament.

Europe

Danny Willett shot a second successive round of seven-under par 65 to enjoy a one-shot advantage on top of the Dubai Desert Classic leaderboard after the third round at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The Englishman, who made a gallant attempt to win the European Tour number one crown but eventually finished second to Rory McIlroy in the Race to Dubai, moved to 16-under par for the tournament, with 2012 champion Rafael Cabrera-Bello in second place at 15-under with his third consecutive round of 67.

Defending champion McIlroy saved his round with another blistering back nine performance, but will begin the final day eight shots behind Willett at 208 after a four-under par 68 round.

England’s Andy Sullivan (66), who finished runner-up to McIlroy in November’s DP World Tour Championship, was third at 202, Netherland’s Joost Luiten (67) fourth at 203 and recent Joburg Open winner, Hadyn Porteus of South Africa, fifth at 204.

Four-time major champion Ernie Els, who started the day just one shot behind the leader, struggled to a two-over par 74 round and fell back to a tie for 28th place at seven-under par.

Willett’s only bogey of the day came on the par-4 12th hole, one of the toughest on the course. But he made amends in stunning fashion when he made a 40-feet eagle putt on the next hole, the par-5 13th, and jumped out of the logjam as a sole leader.

LPGA

Lydia Ko shot a 5-under 67 to share the lead with Ha Na Jang going into the afternoon final round at the Coates Golf Championship at Ocala, Fla.

Ko and Jang had to return to play 12 holes to finish the third round of the rain-delayed event. Both made birdie on the par-5 18th and were at 11-under 205 at Golden Ocala. Jang had a 68.

They were two shots ahead of Brooke Henderson of Canada, whose eagle on the final hole gave her a 67.

Jang fell out of the lead when she made bogey on the par-5 12th and Ko made a birdie. Jang caught up again with a birdie on the par-3 15th.

Top-ranked Ko is making her 2016 debut.

Champions

Corey Pavin birdied his last hole at Boca Raton, Florida, to shoot a 4-under 68 and take a one-shot lead over Tom Lehman into the final round of the Allianz Championship.

Pavin’s only win in 111 starts on the PGA Tour Champions came at the 2012 Allianz. He is at 10-under 134 after two trips around The Old Course at Broken Sound Club.

Lehman also birdied the par-5 closing hole for a 68. He won the 2011 Allianz Championship.

Joe Durant shot a bogey-free 66 and is tied for third with Jeff Sluman at 8-under 136.

Doug Garwood, who started on the back nine, made a run at a 59 but finished double-bogey, bogey for a 65. He was 10-under through 14 holes.

Garwood went to college at Fresno State with Kevin Sutherland, the only player to shoot 59 on the Champions tour.