Rickie Fowler birdied his last four holes on Friday to seize a one-shot lead – and at least temporary bragging rights – over good friend Justin Thomas after two rounds of the US PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open.
“It’s fun, getting to play with your buddies, those are the people you want to lose to the least,” Fowler said after his sizzling finish propelled him to a six-under-par 65 at TPC Scottsdale.
His 13-under-par total of 129 put him one stroke on front of Thomas, who carded a five-under 66 and at 130.
It was a further stroke back to South African Branden Grace, who highlighted his 64 with a hole-in-one, and American Trey Mullinax.
Fowler, who shared the overnight lead with Thomas – his housemate this week – and Harold Varner, was two-under for the day after three birdies and a bogey when he birdied 15 to launch his run.
At the par-three 16th, where a raucous crowd of thousands surrounds the green, he rolled in a 10-footer.
He drained a 13-foot birdie at 17, and capped his round with an eight-foot birdie.
“I hit some really good putts to finish the day off,” said Fowler.
But with two runner-up finishes in Phoenix on his resume, the American was well aware that there remains “a lot of golf to be played”.
“We’re halfway, and we’re going to battle it out,” he said.
Thomas made the last of his six birdies at the 15th, bouncing back from his first bogey of the week at 14.
“To only have one bogey through 36 holes is good, especially when it very easily could have gone in for a par,” who just missed his 10-footer for par at the hole.
“I’m playing solid. Rick, when he’s playing like this at a course that he loves like this is going to be tough to beat.
“But 36 holes left, and there’s a lot of players that are within striking distance.”
That included Grace, whose ace at the par-three seventh was just the first of his two eagles. He also chipped in at the par-five 13th.
Grace admitted his third career hole-in-one, and his first on the US PGA Tour, owed something to caddie Craig Connelly, who advised going with an eight-iron when Grace was contemplating a seven-iron.
“I said ‘Okay, if that’s what you think then I’m going to go for it’,” Grace said.
“I felt really good over the shot, hit a great shot and the guys behind the hole actually started jumping up before the ball actually went in.”
Mullinax also carded a 64, draining an eight-footer at 18 to join Grace in third place.
American veteran Matt Kuchar and Australian Cameron Smith were tied for fifth, both posting 65s for 132.
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, an Arizona State University graduate playing in his 30th Phoenix Open, missed the cut for just the second time in the last 10 years.
The three-time winner of the event carded a second-round 75 for a one-over total, missing the cut by two strokes.AFP