Fowler leads entering Sunday at Waste Management Phoenix OpenCarries four-shot lead into final round at TPC Scottsdale as he eyes fifth PGA TOUR title
February 02, 2019
By Cameron Morfit , PGATOUR.COM
Rickie Fowler Round 3 highlights at Waste Management
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Rickie Fowler guesses he’s 10 yards longer this season after making a golf ball change at the outset of 2019. But is he also straighter?
Fowler hit 11 of 14 fairways and shot a third-round 64 to open up a four-shot lead at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on Saturday.
“If he keeps driving it like this, he’s going to be tough to catch,” said Justin Thomas, his friend and housemate for the week, and also one of his third-round playing partners.
Told that Thomas was wowed by his driving, Fowler jokingly pumped his fist. “Yes!” he said. He is four shots clear of second-place Matt Kuchar (65), who is enjoying a career revival at 40 and will be going for his third win in his last three starts.
MUST READS: Round 3, Waste Management Phoenix Open
“It's been nice to kind of have some things click on the swing this week,” Fowler said. “We have been working on some things the last few weeks pretty hard and trying to just get into some better positions to make things more efficient and ultimately more consistent.”
Thomas shot 68 and was five back, in solo third. He and Fowler paired up to go unbeaten at the 2017 Presidents Cup, but there was little doubt which one came to play Saturday.
“I really didn’t play very well today,” Thomas said.
In all fairness, playing alongside Fowler may have made his round look and feel worse than it was. Fowler has now hit 30 of 42 fairways for the week, which is tied for fourth in Driving Accuracy. He is third in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, and first in SG: Tee to Green.
The question now is whether Fowler can keep it going, silencing the one consistent knock on one of the most liked players on TOUR: He doesn’t win enough.
“Yeah, but the thing about Rick though is he doesn't listen to that,” Thomas said. “And that's why he has the probably the best demeanor on TOUR, that's why he continued to play great golf, he continues to get himself in contention in the biggest tournaments.”
Rickie Fowler interview after Round 3 of Waste Management
Should he hang on to win Sunday, Fowler would notch his fifth TOUR victory and first since The Honda Classic in 2017. He has posted an over-par score in the final round following each of his previous six 54-hole leads/co-leads, converting for the win just once.
“Everybody goes through stretches like that,” Thomas said. “And he would be the first to tell you he should have won more than he has. But it's hard to win, there's only one winner every week, and he's played plenty well enough, and I'm sure it's going to happen plenty of times.”
Fowler came into this week 65th in the FedExCup, but with a history of stellar play at TPC Scottsdale. All he got out of it was two runner-up finishes, and heartache. He lost to Hideki Matsuyama on the fourth hole of a playoff in 2016, and by a shot to Hunter Mahan in 2010.
He turned 30 last month, and just keeps knocking on the door.
“I played with Rickie the first two days; he’s playing great golf,” said Kuchar, who won the Mayakoba Golf Classic and Sony Open in Hawaii, and has shot a perfect 19 of 19 rounds of par or better this season. “Certainly he’s going to be the player to beat, especially if he keeps up on the form he’s on, but, however, I feel like my form’s pretty good, as well.”
Asked what a victory here would mean after the close calls, Fowler didn’t mince words.
“It would be awesome,” he said. “It's been a long time coming. I obviously want to win here. This is a special place. The Thunderbirds have been amazing to me, the fans are awesome and obviously very supportive of me. I always have friends and family in town here; it would be great. Like I said, another good solid 18 holes of golf and we'll be in the right spot.”
Rickie Fowler takes four-stroke lead into Sunday at Waste Management