LOS ANGELES: World No.4 Rickie Fowler bounced back from his missed cut at Torrey Pines, firing a six-under 65 on Thursday (Friday in Manila) to share the Phoenix Open first-round lead with Hideki Matsuyama and Shane Lowry.
“I made some great swings, made a lot of good putts — it was nice to see the ball go in the hole after last week,” Fowler said after a round that included birdies at three of his first four holes at TPC Scottsdale, where he teed off on 10.
Fowler added an eagle at the par-five 15th — where he drained a 27-footer — and sandwiched a birdie between two bogeys before picking up two more strokes coming in.
He capped his round with a birdie at the ninth, despite finding a fairway bunker.
“It’s not one that you try and pull off a lot,” he said of going for the green from the trap. “I knew I could hit it, but I had to hit it perfect.”
Fowler, who moved to fourth in the world with his victory at Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago, said he enjoys the rowdy atmosphere of the tournament — a change from the more traditional tone.
“I love this week. It’s a lot of good energy,” he said.
Lowry also teed off on 10 and birdied five of his first nine, including a run of three straight birdies at 16, 17 and 18.
Lowry admitted he found the par-three 16th, where thousands of raucous fans ring the green in a scene more like a football game than golf tournament, “very intimidating”.
“I was just praying I was going to hit the green. My ball managed to just stay on the green and I rolled it in,” he said. “It was pretty exciting.”
He was rolling after back-to-back birdies at three and four before bogeys at five and six.
“Obviously I started the round beautifully — made a few birdies, holed a couple of long putts,” Ireland’s Lowry said.
“Bit of a slip-up on my back nine,” he said. “I got to seven-under and became a little tentative. That’s something I need to work on.”
He rebounded with a 26-foot birdie at the seventh to join Fowler atop the leaderboard.
“After making two bogeys in a row I was just hitting it to the middle of the green and trying to roll it down,” Lowry said, but he knew when he struck the putt it had a chance.
Japan’s Matsuyama, who also teed off on 10, had five birdies in his first nine holes, including three in a row from the 15th through the 17th.
Matsuyama has a solid history in Phoenix, where he has tied for second and tied for fourth in two prior appearances.
“I wish I knew [why], but I really enjoy playing here,” he said.
Matsuyma was in one of the last groups to finish before darkness halted play — the hangover of frost delay to the start of the round.
Anirban Lahiri of India was in the clubhouse on 66, while Bryce Molder was also five-under through 16 holes when play was halted.
New Zealand’s Danny Lee, England’s Greg Owen, James Hahn, Brooks Koepka and Brandt Snedeker — fresh off a victory at Torrey Pines — were tied on 67.
Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson carded an eventful 69 that included four birdies, an eagle and a triple-bogey seven at the par-four fifth that followed on the heels of a bogey at the fourth.