Despite shooting an even-par 71 in the first round of the WM Phoenix Open, Rickie Fowler had a spectacular opening round.
Fowler started his day with five bogeys on his way to a 3-over 38 on TPC Scottsdale’s front nine, which contained both difficulties and highlights. He hit his 175-yard tee shot 5 feet from the pin on the par-3 fourth, but one hole later, on the par-4 fifth, he drew a penalty en way to a bogey after moving his ball while trying to clear rocks after his shot got caught behind a cactus.
Fowler’s errant drive on the par-4 eighth resulted in a cactus once more, forcing him to hit his shot southpaw. He hit it 74 yards across the fairway into the right rough and nearly saved par with a 19-foot putt that rolled just two feet beyond the pin.
However, Fowler’s early missteps would be mitigated by the back nine, particularly the final three holes.
After making the turn, the 33-year-old made four straight pars and a birdie, but bogeyed No. 15 after missing a 7-footer. When Fowler hammered his tee shot 137 yards into the right green side bunker on the renowned par-3 16th, it appeared like the bogey would continue, but the grandstand’s jaws fell when his bunker shot from 57 feet out clanked off the flagstick.
He made up for it on the next hole, holing out from 47 yards for eagle, his 12th hole-out at TPC Scottsdale since 2010, the most of anyone in that time period, according to statistician Justin Ray.
Fowler finished his erratic day by leaving his 127-yard approach shot 4 feet from the hole and converting his birdie putt, placing him in T-70, seven strokes behind the lead.
Since winning the 2019 WM Phoenix Open, Fowler has been seeking for a follow-up victory. Although there is still a lot of room to make up on the leaderboard, Fowler’s memorable opening round could be the start of something even more memorable if he can carry his last three holes into the following three days.