Five things to know for marathon Sunday at WM Phoenix Open
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Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – A marathon Sunday is in full swing at the WM Phoenix Open, as players completed up to 12 holes of the third round Sunday morning before quickly turning to the final round at TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course.
Sahith Theegala and Nick Taylor shared the 54-hole lead at 15 under, one stroke clear of Charley Hoffman and Andrew Novak. Cameron Young and Scottie Scheffler stood two strokes back.
The field was not regrouped between the third and fourth rounds, allowing for a Sunday evening finish in the Arizona desert (barring a lengthy playoff). The final threesome of Theegala, Taylor and Novak completed the third round at 12:03 p.m. local time, before signing their cards and beginning the final round at 12:15 p.m. local.
At the suspension of play Saturday evening, Taylor stood 13-under total (through six holes of Round 3), one stroke clear of Theegala. Doug Ghim and Novak were two strokes back, with Jordan Spieth in solo fifth.
The third round was suspended due to darkness at 6:11 p.m. local time Saturday and was slated to resume at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. After a 75-minute frost delay, play resumed at 8:45 a.m. MT.
Here are five storylines to follow on a marathon Sunday at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course, where anything can happen with several players in the mix. One thing we know will happen: the crowds will bring the energy.
1. Theegala, Taylor continue strong Scottsdale vibes
Both co-leaders into the final round have experienced a recent near-miss at the WM Phoenix Open, suggesting a horses-for-courses factor in the desert.
Theegala finished T3 in 2022, one stroke outside a playoff, after finding the water off the tee at the short par-4 17th en route to bogey. He was emotional afterward, with approximately 60 family members and friends in attendance, but has since used the experience as a spark. He entered that week outside the top 300 in the world; he now stands No. 22 on the Official World Golf Ranking
Sahith Theegala hits tee shot tight and birdies at WM Phoenix Open
Taylor finished runner-up last year to Scottie Scheffler, after matching the world No. 1’s final-round 65 at TPC Scottsdale. Taylor, 35, moved to Scottsdale shortly after graduating from the University of Washington in 2010; he remembers attending the WM as a fan, some 10 or 12 years ago, before earning a TOUR card.
“Even then, the amount of grandstands have gone up since then,” Taylor said. “It’s wild. This place is hard to beat … I think I just took in the scene. I behaved myself, but it was fun.”
2. Ghim, Novak could earn first TOUR win
Two players seeking their first TOUR win, Andrew Novak and Doug Ghim, lurk into the final round in the Arizona desert. Novak stood 14 under through 54 holes, one stroke off the lead. Ghim was two back of the lead at the suspension of play Saturday evening, but he stood six back into the final round.
Doug Ghim's spinny wedge yields birdie at WM Phoenix Open
Ghim’s career-best finish is T5 at The American Express in 2021; Novak has notched a pair of T9s. Now they seek their career-best finishes, and perhaps even more, amidst one of the TOUR’s rowdiest settings.
Both players kept their cards for 2024 in narrow fashion: Novak finished No. 122 on last year’s FedExCup; Ghim placed No. 123. That got them here, and they’re taking advantage.
3. Spieth could break winless drought
Jordan Spieth hasn’t won on TOUR since the 2022 RBC Heritage, a drought that spans 22 months. He has fought his way into mix at TPC Scottsdale, with a chance to break that drought Sunday.
Spieth surged up the board with a 6-under 30 on the back nine of his second round, completed early Saturday morning. That moved him from the cut line into the mix at 8-under total, and he turned in 2-under 33 for the front nine of the third round, just before play was suspended Saturday due to darkness. He completed a third-round 69 on Saturday morning; he faced a five-stroke deficit into the final round.
Jordan Spieth pours in 32-foot birdie putt at WM Phoenix Open
Spieth, 30, finished third at The Sentry last month, perhaps setting the stage for another Sunday in contention. He’s 10-under total, three off the lead. After a 25-hole endurance test Saturday, he’s set for 27 more on the final day.
“I had some sloppy bogeys on 8 and 9 earlier today, so this time around, I stood on the eighth tee and thought, let's just hit four good shots and try and steal a birdie by the turn,” Spieth said.
He did one better, closing the nine with back-to-back birdies (from 11 and 33 feet) before darkness fell.
4. Scheffler lurks in three-peat chase
In pursuit of his third consecutive WM Phoenix Open title, Scottie Scheffler started hot Sunday to vault into the mix. but he’s within striking distance. One of the game’s premier ball-strikers, a hot putter Sunday could prove a recipe for a three-peat.
Scheffler stood 8-under for the week as darkness fell Saturday, five back of the lead. He made seven birdies in 11 holes Sunday upon the resumption of play, against two bogeys, to move within two of the lead into the final round.
The only player to three-peat at the WM Phoenix Open is Arnold Palmer (1961-63). “He’s just a really special person we all look up to,” Scheffler said after winning the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
Scheffler is building that type of legacy as well – and a three-peat at TPC Scottsdale would offer a unique piece of connective tissue with The King.
5. How will the crowds show?
The event’s Colosseum-like par-3 16th, arguably golf’s rowdiest hole, delivered once again Saturday. Legions of fans arrived before dawn to stampede to the hole once the gates opened at 7:16 a.m. local time, and the crowd was treated to all-day action – the conclusion of Round 2 in the morning and early afternoon, and the start of Round 3 into the evening. During the lull between the second and third rounds, the entertainment at No. 16 included TOUR pro Kevin Kisner, who is serving as an NBC analyst this week.
Spieth didn’t even make it to the closing stretch, but he was impressed with the crowd’s energy throughout the day.
“They were awesome,” Spieth said of the fans. “It was really cool actually to see that many people on the front nine. You typically just see them on the back nine here and then occasionally on 9 and a couple other spots. They were fantastic.
“Saturday is normally the big day, but I think with 27 holes tomorrow, we might see some more people come out than usual on Sunday anyway.”
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for PGATOUR.COM. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.