LOS ANGELES: New Zealand’s Danny Lee nabbed six birdies in a four-under par 67 on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to build a three-stroke lead in the US PGA Tour’s $6.5 million Phoenix Open.
Lee, seeking to add a second US tour title to the Greenbrier Classic trophy he captured last year, had a 13-under par total of 200 at TPC Scottsdale, where the PGA Tour said the crowd of 201,003 set a record for single day attendance on the PGA Tour.
“Two-hundred thousand?” Lee said. “Wow.”
It was “unfortunate” Lee added, that so many of them were cheering for his playing partner Rickie Fowler, the world number four who finished the day tied for second on 203 with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama.
“But I’m having fun,” he said of playing in the raucous atmosphere. “Taking (a) slow breath out there really helps.”
Matsuyama thrust himself into contention with a three-under par 68. His five birdies included a chip-in at the 14th.
His last birdie of the day, at the par-five 15th, moved him to 10-under for the tournament, which is where Fowler also finished up after a one-under par 70.
It was a further stroke back to Bryce Molder and Boo Weekley on 204. Molder climbed the leaderboard with a 64 while Weekley fired a 65.
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, a three-time champion in Phoenix, also carded a 65 for 205.
Lee, a 25-year-old who was born in South Korea but moved to New Zealand as a youngster, started the day sharing second with Fowler, one shot behind Korean-American James Hahn.
He got off to a hot start with birdies at the second, third and fourth. He drained a 40-foot birdie putt at eight.
His first bogey of the day at the 11th saw him fall back into a tie for the lead with Hahn.
After saving par from a bunker at the 12th — the same bunker from which Fowler and Hahn both bogeyed — Lee tapped in for birdie at 13 after narrowly missing an eagle attempt.
Lee gave a stroke back with a bogey at the 15th, where he was in the water off the tee, but he added one last birdie at 17.
Hahn’s challenge came unstuck with his bogey at 12, followed by back-to-back double-bogeys at 13 and 14. He finished with a 74.
Fowler had four birdies and three bogeys, parring his last five holes.
“I didn’t have my best stuff out there,” Fowler said.