When it comes to experience in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Rickie Fowler and Bryson DeChambeau are on opposite ends of the spectrum. But they’ve conquered TPC Scottsdale in a similar fashion over the first 36 holes, both opening with a pair of 66s to grab a share of the lead at 10-under 132.
For Fowler, the 66 marked his 11th consecutive score in the 60s in this event. Aside from Hideki Matsuyama, who withdrew with a wrist injury on Friday, no one has had as much recent success on in this tournament.
"I just feel like I’m comfortable on this golf course, I’ve had quite a few rounds here and there’s been a lot of good ones. I’m looking forward to getting out this weekend, I know I can play well here and we’ll piece together the nines at some point," he said.
"Just keep the gas pedal down. Once we started making birdies at Tiger’s event in the Bahamas that was kind of the whole game plan was just keep going. Like I said, we’ll piece two nines together at some point and we’ll have some fun tomorrow and hopefully put ourselves in a good spot for Sunday."
It may be DeChambeau’s first start in the Waste Management, but he’s played like he knows the place well. Prior to a slip-up at the par-4 14th on Friday, the former NCAA individual champion had yet to make a bogey. At 15 he almost went off the rails, pulling his drive into the water, but he saved par, which built some momentum and led to a birdie-birdie finish at 17 and 18.
"Yeah, it was unfortunate, I was playing really good golf and just had a little bit of timing issue on the putt [on 14] and just pulled it a little bit and lipped out, unfortunately. Then that kind of pushed me over to 15 where I didn’t focus as hard as I should have and kind of pulled it in the water, obviously," he said, "but I said, all right, I got to pick it up here and start executing some good shots coming in because I know there’s a couple birdie holes coming in. I was fortunate enough to get a couple on 17 and 18 there. Almost made it on 18, which would have been amazing. But still to make par on 15 was a big momentum builder for me."
DeChambeau heads to the weekend in search of his second PGA Tour victory, the first coming last July at the John Deere Classic.
"I’m looking forward to tomorrow, it’s going to be a good day."
Daniel Berger is just one back after posting one of the rounds of the day, a six-under 65. The two-time tour winner went bogey-free, holing six birdies on the round, none bigger then at the par-4 18th, where he finished his day with a 20-footer to get to nine-under 133 for the tournament. In four starts this season, Berger has made every cut, but has yet to finish in the top 10, something he could change with a strong weekend in the desert.
Matching Berger’s 65 and getting to nine under for the tournament was Chez Reavie, who also went bogey-free. The Arizona State alum has quietly put together a strong 2017-‘2018 so far, having made all seven cuts and finishing inside the top 25 six times.
Chesson Hadley, Scott Stallings and Chris Kirk are at eight-under 134, two back.
Eleven players are at seven-under 135, including Phil Mickelson, who fired a six-under 65 that featured four consecutive birdies to end his round. Mickelson credited the TPC Scottsdale crowd for the extra energy boost late on Friday afternoon.
"There’s no question that I play better down the stretch with people here because I can feel their energy and it helps me focus, it helps me get a little bit of strength and I seem to play better when I’m around them, I can feel the energy," he said.
The streak began at the par-5 15th, where Mickelson found the green in two and two-putted for birdie, but things really got going inside the Stadium at that par-3 16th.
"That’s always a hole you want to hit one of your best shots of the day there and the last two days I hit two really good ones. But to see that putt go in was really cool and it was a lot of it had to do with Jon [Rahm] having a putt on a similar line, because that ball really snapped a little bit more than I was seeing. And watching his ball snap while still going three or four feet by the hole it allowed me to play a little bit more break and get that one to go in. There’s nothing better than making a two on that hole."
He followed with another at the 17th, and then holed 24-footer the produced one more huge roar at the par-4 18th.
"It’s really cool to come down those last five, six holes, feel the crowd and feel that energy. It definitely has helped me in the past in my successes here and I felt it today. It’s a big element in getting me to focus and getting me to hit some of my best shots. I just loved it and to make a two on 16 the last two days, both days, was awesome."
While the five-time major champion seems to have success in this event every year, he hasn’t contended well into the weekend since his third victory here in 2013, when he won by four strokes and shot a first-round 60. Later that season he won at the Open Championship, which is still his last win on tour.
Also at seven under are Jon Rahm, Steve Stricker and Xander Schauffele. Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas and Brandt Snedeker are just four back at six-under 136.
For the first time since last season’s AT&T Byron Nelson, Jordan Spieth missed the cut at even par 142 after shooting a one-under 70.