It was a crazy opening day Thursday at the Phoenix Open and when the PGA Tour comes to the TPC Scottsdale, there’s one spot that immediately comes to mind — the loud and rowdy stadium setting at the par three 16th hole.
Rickie Fowler has done just about everything at the Phoenix Open except win but he got off to a great start despite an opening 66 and some razzing at the 16th that even got Fowler’s attention.
“I may be somewhat of a fan favorite but they weren’t holding back,” Fowler said of the well-oiled crowd in the stands surrounding the 165-yard hole. “I was a little disappointed with some of the stuff that was said and I don’t want much negativity. The normal boos for missing a green, that’s fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum and make it fun, support the guys out playing.
Fowler had just made eagle at the 15th but at the short 16th, he missed the green, made his only bogey of the day and took some abuse for it.
Still, he was just two shots off the lead of surprising Bill Haas. Haas has missed the cut in three of his last four events and finished an unimpressive tie for 54th at Torrey last week. But he rode a hot putter on his was to a seven-under par 64, using just 29 putts.
Justin Thomas looked like he’d shoot something in the low 60s but ran into some problems at both 16 and the short, drivable par four 17th.
At the 16th his pitching wedge from the tee bounced into a greenside bunker. He then bladed his sand shot over the green, throwing his club toward his bag in frustration to the delight of the thousands looking on. He made a poor third from the fringe, left himself a testy five-foot putt, missed it and took double bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.
“It’s frustrating because it’s a wedge. I mean that’s a club I’m trying to make a birdie with, and it wasn’t as short as I thought it was off the tee,” Thomas said. “I thought it was at least going to cover the front, and there was just no sand in the bunker. When you’re short-sided, elevated green, it really sucks, to be honest, because there’s nothing you can do.”
He made another surprising error after a good tee shot on the 17th that left him just short of the green.
He took a bold line with his pitch shot, only to watch it bounce over the green and into the water. He went on to make bogey.
“I wish I had it over. I just would have played it differently,” Thomas said of his pitch. “I thought it wouldn’t take as big of a hop and I flew it past where I wanted to, so pretty much didn’t do anything correctly on that shot.”
Still, J.T. finished the day three-under and in contention. His playing partner, Jordan Spieth, wasn’t as fortunate.
Spieth had a miserable day with the putter and that typically means nothing good. He finished with a one-over par 72 and will need a good bounce-back to make the 36-hole cut.
Jon Rahm, who looked really strong for the first 36 holes last week at Torrey, only to fall apart on the weekend, put himself in the hunt again with a 67.
Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama opened with 69.