Rickie Fowler brings style and substance to Phoenix Open
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Waste Management Phoenix Open is a bit out there by PGA Tour standards. So is Rickie Fowler.
As comfortable in a motocross race as a golf tournament as a kid in California, Fowler was as fashion-forward as ever in high tops and jogger pants Thursday in front of more than 100,000 fans at TPC Scottsdale.
“I grew up around action sports and this kind of reminds me more of being at action sports events, the fans being loud and having fun,” Fowler said.
He brought as much substance as style, shooting a 6-under 65 to tie Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama for the first-round lead.
After an hour frost delay at the chilly Stadium Course, Fowler played the first six holes in 5 under.
“I made some good putts to start the round,” 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.”
Fowler missed the cut last week 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 temperatures 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.
While Fowler overcame some bad shots, Phil Mickelson compounded his mistakes to fall back. After playing his first eight holes in 5 under to take the lead, Lefty dropped four strokes in a two-hole stretch and finished with a 69.
On his back nine, 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 2 1/2 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. Mickelson tied for third two weeks ago at La Quinta in his season debut and missed the cut 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.
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. Bryce Molder bogeyed his final hole Friday morning in the completion of play to drop into the group at 67. He was one of 33 players to finish the round Friday.
Bubba Watson opened with a 69, finishing in fading light a day after saying he doesn’t like the renovated course and is playing the tournament out of loyalty to his sponsors. The two-time Masters champion tied for second the last two seasons.
DIVOTS: The crowd was listed at 101,021. The first-round record of 118,461 was set last year with Tiger Woods in the field. ... Defending champion Brooks Koepka had a 67. He played alongside Watson. ... Brandt Snedeker, the winner Monday at Torrey Pines, also had a 67.