Fowler struggles as Clark flourishes in career-low round at Phoenix Open

By Sports Desk January 30, 2020

Defending champion Rickie Fowler endured a tough opening round as Wyndham Clark grabbed a two-stroke lead at the Phoenix Open on Thursday.

Fowler, who missed the cut at Torrey Pines last week, dropped shots on four of his first nine holes and struggled to a three-over 74, level with Jordan Spieth.

His compatriot Clark found more comfort amid typically rowdy crowd behaviour at TPC Scottsdale, carding the lowest round of his career.

The 26-year-old fired a 10-under 61 that included 10 birdies to move two shots clear of Billy Horschel, who produced an error-free 63.

"I putted really well today," Clark told Golf Channel. "I made a lot of long putts. I haven't putted well the last couple of weeks and it was shocking, because it was a strength of mine.

"Throughout my history, I think everyone knows once I get on little run, especially with the putter, I feel like I can make anything from anywhere on the green.

"I love these greens out here. Once I get on that run of seeing putts go in, the hole just looks massive and I see this perfect track going to the hole. All I have to do is make sure I hit it with the right speed."

Two-time Phoenix Open champion J.B. Holmes hit a bogey, a double bogey and an ace - at the par-three fourth - en route to a seven-under 64.

Jon Rahm, who played collegiate golf at the nearby Arizona State University, made five birdies in a steady four-under 67 to please the local fans.

"It's fun," the Spaniard told reporters. "It's the biggest golf event in the sense of the amount of people who come watch. If you're a Sun Devil and a hometown favourite you get a lot of people come support you.

"Especially at the 16th, if you hit a good shot and make the putt the cheer is extra loud."

Justin Thomas (68) and Tony Finau (69) also earned approval for wearing Kobe Bryant jerseys in tribute to the Los Angeles Lakers legend, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

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    Eddie Pepperell holed a long-range birdie at the last hole to take a one-shot lead into Saturday's final round of the British Masters at The Belfry.

    The 30-year-old was a shot back from overnight leaders Calum Hill, Robert MacIntyre and Richard Bland at the start of play on Friday, but a second successive 68 moved him into the lead.

    Pepperell, who won the tournament in 2018, finished strongly with three birdies in his last seven holes - including an impressive 40-foot putt on the 18th.

    That moved the world number 210 to 10 under for the tournament, with six players - including erstwhile leaders Hill and MacIntyre - in a tie for second.

    Edoardo Molinari, Adrian Meronk, Dean Burmester and Guido Migliozzi were all also a stroke off the pace in a congested pack that saw the leading 26 players separated by five shots at the 54-hole stage.

    "I remember the game feeling easier when I was playing better a few years ago. That's what I'm trying to get back to," Pepperell told Sky Sports.

    "There were times out there today I didn't get it and times when I did - that seems to be the way it is.

    "I've still got things going on in the swing that I can feel aren't where they once were and can cause me aggro, so the game still feels difficult."

    Pre-tournament favourite MacIntyre dropped his only shot of the day on the par-four 10th hole as he failed to recover from a wayward tee shot.

    "The way I play golf is aggressive and the course suits me perfectly," MacIntyre said. "When I'm in the fairway, a right-hand side pin is in danger, I just can't leave it alone.

    "I didn't drive it my best today but I hit my irons beautifully - they were all over the pin but the putter was cold. It was on fire the day before so hopefully it turns up tomorrow."

    Three birdies in his last four holes ensured that MacIntyre's fellow Scotsman Hill also remained firmly in the mix, while Molinari revived his own hopes by posting a 64, the lowest score of the day.

  • Hill, MacIntyre and Bland share lead at The Belfry Hill, MacIntyre and Bland share lead at The Belfry

    Calum Hill dropped into a share of the lead with Robert MacIntyre and Richard Bland by bogeying the last hole in his second round at the British Masters.

    Hill held a one-shot advantage when he teed off at the 18th at The Belfry on Thursday, but moved to back seven under in a disappointing finish.

    The 26-year-old Kirkcaldy native was a shot back from overnight leader Matthias Schwab at the start of the day and a two-under 70 kept him firmly in the mix.

    Hill birdied the third and chipped in from thick greenside rough to go seven under at the fourth, going out in 35 after a first bogey of the day at the par-four eighth.

    Back-to-back gains followed straight after the turn, but he was unable to stay out on his own, bogeying the final hole after reeling off six consecutive pars.

    MacIntyre made his move with a brilliant six-under 66, starting with five birdies in a row and picking up another three shots on the back nine after bogeys at the sixth and 12th.

    The left-hander, tied for 12th in The Masters last month, had started the tournament with a 71, but surged up the leaderboard with a magnificent second round.

    Bland backed up his opening 68 with a three-under 69 and the Englishman is bogey-free through his opening two rounds.

    Frenchman Julien Guerrier signed for a sublime 66 to stand well poised just a shot off the leading trio along with Justin Harding and Eddie Pepperell.

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