Bill Haas’ 9-iron landed to the right of the pin and spun left, settling 3 feet away for a birdie on the par-3 16th in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
“I just tried to play the hole like I would any other hole, even though it’s not like any other hole,” Haas said about the stadium hole that was packed with 20,000 fans on the warm Thursday afternoon.
Haas shot a 7-under 64 at TPC Scottsdale to take a two-stroke lead. The birdie on 16 capped a five-hole stretch he played in 5 under, with birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 and a 20-footer for eagle on the par-5 15th.
“Once you get a cushion like that, you can free your swing up a little bit,” Haas said.
The 16th, playing 151 yards to a front pin, tripped up Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas. Fowler bogeyed it in a 66 that left him tied with Billy Horschel, Bryson DeChambeau, Chris Kirk and Chesson Hadley. Thomas made a double bogey in a 68.
Fowler hit short into the right bunker and two-putted from 30 feet. The fans let him hear it, too — at 9:30 a.m. with only the general-admission sections full.
“I may be somewhat of a fan favorite, but they weren’t holding back,” Fowler said. “I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said.”
Coming off three straight birdies to tie for the lead, Thomas hit a wedge in the front left bunker, blasted across the green and three-putted from the fringe.
“I just barely caught it heavy, but I thought it was at least going to cover the front, and there was just no sand in the bunker,” Thomas said.
He bogeyed the par-4 17th after chipping into the water, and then was angered when a woman screamed while Jordan Spieth was teeing off on 18.
“That girl just yelled right in Jordan’s downswing,” Thomas said. “There’s just no place for that. You saw it with Tiger (Woods) last week. I get it, late in the day, at a place like Phoenix, I’m sure they’re a couple in.”
Spieth hit a 325-yard drive into the fairway and finished with a par for a 72.
While Fowler lost a stroke on 16, he had an eagle and two birdies on the other three holes in the chaotic closing stretch.
“Some good and bad all around,” Fowler said.
Fowler eagled the 15th, hitting a 5-wood 232 yards to 2 feet. He drove the green and two-putted for birdie on the 17th and holed a 30-foot chip on the par-4 18th. On his second nine, he made a 43-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fourth and a 14-footer on the par-4 eighth.
Haas also finished on the front nine, making birdies on Nos. 2 and 4.
“I kind of hit a bad putt on 2, but it hit the back of the cup and went in,” Haas said. “One of those days where I could have easily three-putted that if it had run by, but it went in and saved two shots there, basically. Hopefully, it will be one of those weeks.”
Haas won the first and the last of his six PGA Tour titles in the desert, taking the La Quinta event in California in 2010 and 2015.
“I like playing in the desert,” Haas said. “I love the turf. I love the grass.”
Fowler wore a pin on his hat with a picture of Griffin Connell, the area boy who died Jan. 23 at age 7. Connell was born with a rare airway disorder.
“Just kind of humbles you, grounds you a bit, and makes you realize that there’s a lot bigger things than just playing golf,” Fowler said.
Former Arizona State star Jon Rahm was at 67 in a group that included Bubba Watson.
Cheyenne Woods leads at Ladies European Tour opener
Cheyenne Woods, niece of Tiger Woods, is one stroke off the lead at the Ladies European Tour opener despite not practicing because an airline problem delayed the arrival of her clubs.
Beth Allen, a Scotland-based American, is in front at the Vic Allen after a 6-under 67 Thursday in the first round.
Woods was unable to fit in a practice round on the Beach or Creek layouts. Her clubs missed a connection in Los Angeles and did not get to the clubhouse until Wednesday afternoon.
The winner of the 2014 Australian Ladies Masters says she napped and relaxed, adding that after the long travel day the mix-up “forced me to rest.”
Camilla Lennarth of Sweden shot a 69 and Laura Davies a 71.
At a PGA of Australia Tour men’s event held alongside the women’s tournament, New Zealand’s James Anstiss and Australia’s David Bransdon lead by a stroke after shooting 64s.
Chris Paisley sets pace at weather-interrupted Maybank event
Chris Paisley shot a 7-under 65 to take a one-shot clubhouse lead over David Horsey after a weather-interrupted first round at the Maybank Championship on Thursday.
Play was suspended for almost two hours due to the threat of storms and 40 players will need to return on Friday morning to complete their rounds.
Paisley, who already has a European Tour title to his name this year after winning last month’s South African Open, posted seven birdies at the Saujana Golf and Country Club.
“I hit it well off the tee so I gave myself a lot of wedges and short irons into the greens,” Paisley said. “It’s very hot and there’s not much wind so scoring-wise it is quite easy but to keep your focus is quite difficult with how tiring the heat is.”
Henrik Stenson, the 2016 British Open champion, was well down the field on 72. Haotong Li, who won the Dubai Desert Classic last Sunday, fared even worse as he slumped to a 74.
Defending champion Fabrizio Zanotti made a good start as he posted a 68 to finish in a share of 10th place with 14 other players, including Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.