Fairways And Roughs Title

Fowler off to hot start at Waste Management Phoenix Open

By PGA Tour News
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – If you had to predict where Rickie Fowler would pick up his fifth PGA TOUR victory, the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale would be as good a guess as any. He was runner-up to Hideki Matsuyama in 2016, and T4 last year. Fowler was at it again in the first round Thursday, making four birdies, one bogey and a kick-in eagle at the 548-yard, par-5 15th hole. He was among a large group of players at 5-under and chasing the first-round leader, Bill Haas (64). “Yeah, after the first couple years here, I just figured it was a matter of time before I was the last one standing on Sunday,” Fowler said. “We have given ourselves some pretty good chances. Losing to Hideki two years ago in the playoff, it’s just a matter of time; I know I can win here, and sometimes you just got to be in the right place at the right time, or not got a bad kick on 17, but we’re going to get one.” It was two years ago here that Fowler endured one of the toughest losses of his career. Trying to win for the first time in the presence of his father, Rod, and grandfather, Taka, Fowler hit his tee shot to within nine feet for birdie at the rowdy, par-3 16th hole. With a make, he would have taken a three-shot lead over Matsuyama and Harris English with two holes to play. Then it all went bad. Fowler missed the putt, and drove his tee shot at the short, par-4 17th hole through the green and into the water. He would bogey the hole, to Matsuyama’s birdie, and later lose on the fourth hole of a playoff, at 17 again. Fowler was crushed. One of the ways he has dealt with that memory this week is by focusing on a different memory, of the boy whom he calls his biggest fan, Griffin Connell. The 7-year-old was born with a respiratory disorder but became a fixture at the WMPO, cheering Fowler on until he died last month. Fowler’s Puma cap on Thursday featured a pin with a photo of Griffin. “He was just a huge fan of the game,” Fowler said. “I was lucky to have him as, I claim him as being my number one fan. … It just makes you appreciate the position that a lot of us are in. Even if I hit a bad shot out there in past years, you would look over and see him and he was pumped and excited to be out there watching us.” OBSERVATIONS • Bill Haas came out of nowhere to seize the outright lead by two over five players. Who would have predicted that? Not even Haas, probably. He was fresh off a final-round 75 to finish T54 at the Farmers Insurance Open, and had three straight missed cuts before that. “I’ve been struggling,” he said after making five birdies, an eagle, and no bogeys at sun-drenched TPC Scottsdale. He made 125 feet, 4 inches worth of putts, and none was more important than the nearly 30-footer for birdie he made at the second hole, his 11th of the day. “I could have easily three-putted that if it had run by,” he said, “but it went in and saved two shots there, basically.” • Jon Rahm wore a 'Rahmbo' jersey with the late Arizona State football player Pat Tillman’s number 42 at the rowdy par-3 16th hole last year. What did Rahm do for an encore? He hit his tee shot 11 feet, 7 inches from the pin, threw on a crowd-pleasing white #RAHMBO headband, and rolled in the birdie putt. If anybody won the wild 16th hole in the first round, you’d have to say it was Rahm, who was in contention again after a 4-under 67. “I heard a lot of nicknames in the last year,” he said, “and Rahmbo is one I’ve always loved and always tried to encourage.” • Prior to his breakthrough at the John Deere Classic last season, Bryson DeChambeau missed 14 cuts, including eight in a row at one point. One player who helped him get through that tough stretch: fellow Puma golfer Rickie Fowler. "He's so good at understanding," DeChambeau said. "Told me that it’s a long game, it's not easy, and you got to make sure that everything is focused in on the day and you can't be tired for it." SHOT OF THE DAY NOTABLES • FedExCup leader Patton Kizzire bogeyed the par-5 15th hole and shot a 1-under 70. • Hideki Matsuyama got off to a slow start in his bid for a third straight WMPO title, shooting a 2-under 69. • Justin Thomas double-bogeyed the 16th hole, then hit his second shot in the water to bogey 17. The reigning FedExCup champ shot a 3-under 68. • Jordan Spieth struggled off the tee, took 30 putts and signed for a 1-over 72. • Phil Mickelson hit eight of 14 fairways and shot a 1-under-par 71. • Xander Schauffele, making his first WMPO start, doubled the par-4 fifth hole but shot 68. • Alex Noren and Ryan Palmer, who lost a sudden-death playoff to Jason Day at the Farmers last week, each shot even-par 71. QUOTABLES "Yeah, my head. We tried chopping it off, but we realized if that happened, it wasn't going to be a good scenario." - Horschel on the scrapped solution for his first-round scoring woes. He carded a dozen over-par scores in opening rounds last season and ranked 164th in R1 scoring average. "I was a little more nervous than I was at the Masters, when I was an amateur." - DeChambeau on his first experience at the 16th hole, where he hit his tee shot to seven feet but made par. “With a breakfast ball, I’m two better.” - Brian Gay, after hitting his opening tee shot out of bounds but still carding a 4-under 67. “If I were to lose a tournament to somebody, I would probably choose that person to be Phil.” – Rahm on his fellow ASU alumnus and friend Mickelson. 16TH HOLE HIGHLIGHTS SUPERLATIVES Attendance: 104,375 (second-highest in history) Thursday's record is 118,461 in 2015. Scoring average: 70.89 (Morning 70.67, Afternoon 71.12). Bogey-free: Haas (64), Horschel (66), DeChambeau (66), Reavie (68), Martin (69). Hardest hole: Par-4 2nd (+0.282) Easiest hole: Par-5 13th (-0.389) Longest putt: Andrew Landry (56 feet; second hole, birdie) Long drive: Charlie Beljan 398 yards, par-4 14th hole • Par-3 16th hole averaged 2.817, tied for fourth easiest (Closest to pin: Cam Smith, 18 inches) • Par-4 17th hole averaged 3.817 tied for fourth easiest (One eagle: Morgan Hoffmann from the greenside bunker) BEST OF SOCIAL


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