PGA Tour

Fowler stretches Phoenix lead to four strokes

Rickie Fowler (Getty Images)
Rickie Fowler (Getty Images)

Los Angeles - Rickie Fowler fired eight birdies in a seven-under par 64 on Saturday to stretch his lead to four strokes heading into the final round of the Phoenix Open.

Fowler, in search of his fifth PGA Tour title and his first since the 2017 Honda Classic, had a 20-under par total of 193 at TPC Scottsdale, where he held the 54-hole lead last year but finished tied for 11th.

"We've led for three rounds, now why not make it four," said Fowler, who has converted just one of his six prior 54-hole leads to a victory.

He has some breathing room, with a four-shot lead over US veteran Matt Kuchar, who had six birdies in a sparkling six-under 65 that put him on 197.

Justin Thomas, who started the day one stroke off Fowler's lead, nabbed four of his five birdies on the back nine in a 68 that put him alone in third on 198.

He was two strokes in front of South Korean An Byeong-hun (66) and South African Branden Grace (69).

Fowler separated himself from his pursuers with four birdies in his first six holes -- including a 37-footer at the fifth.

Fowler called the long birdie putts -- including his 18-footer at the first -- a bonus.

"Took advantage of some opportunities," he said. "It was fun."

After his lone bogey of the day, from a greenside bunker at the seventh, Fowler picked up three more birdies coming in at the ninth, 11th and 13th.

"Nice to finally feel the game clicking a little bit," Fowler said. "Last week (I was) still working on swing stuff and it wasn't quite there -- and I wasn't able to make nay putts either.

"I wouldn't say anything has been amazing, but everything has been pretty good this week."

Thomas, playing in the last group alongside Fowler and Grace, took a while to find his groove. He bounced back from a bogey at the second with a birdie at the third, but bogeyed the ninth to make the turn one-over for the day.

Thomas warmed up on the back nine, where his four birdies included a chip-in at the 11th and a 16-footer at 17.

Leading third-round scores on Saturday in the US PGA Tour's Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale course (par-71; USA unless stated):

193 - Rickie Fowler 64-65-64

197 - Matt Kuchar 67-65-65

198 - Justin Thomas 64-66-68

200 - An Byeong-hun (KOR) 66-68-66, Branden Grace (RSA) 67-64-69

201 - Gary Woodland 68-67-66, Bubba Watson 66-67-68

203 - Harold Varner 64-71-68, Martin Laird (SCO) 65-68-70, Trey Mullinax 67-64-72, Cameron Smith (AUS) 67-65-71

204 - Jason Kokrak 73-66-65, Chris Stroud 71-66-67, Im Sung-jae (KOR) 69-68-67, Chez Reavie 71-69-64, Charley Hoffman 66-68-70, Tom Hoge 67-68-69

205 - J.B. Holmes 69-68-68, Jhonattan Vegas (VEN) 70-69-66, Brandon Harkins 70-66-69, Denny McCarthy 69-65-71, Ollie Schniederjans 67-69-69, Nick Watney 67-69-69, Russell Henley 68-68-69, Jon Rahm (ESP) 67-68-70

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