SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – With matching 7-under 64s, the trio of Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Harold Varner III share the lead after day one of the Waste Management Open.
Thomas and Fowler – two of the tournament headliners – signed bogey-free cards, while Varner mixed eight birdies with one bogey.
Thomas, who started his round from the 10th tee, got off to somewhat sluggish start with seven pars and one birdie over his first eight holes. The world No. 4, though, picked up the pace around the turn, reeling off six birdies over his next seven holes to reach 7-under par.
“It was a good day today. I was in control of everything tee to green. I didn’t necessarily get off to the greatest start score-wise, but I felt like I was playing well and just kind had a couple holes there in the beginning,” said Thomas.
“Those front pins were tucked pins, were very, very hard to get to, greens being, I mean not frozen, but harder and a little bit wet, they kind of had that skid. So it was very, very hard to get the balls close to the pin early in the round.
“But just continued to try to stay patient and was driving it well to where I had wedges and I made some very low stress birdies out there.”
Fowler’s scoring was more balanced with a 4-under front-nine – highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 13th(his 4th hole), followed by a 3-under close.
“It was great to get off to kind of a positive start. Obviously then was able to birdie 12, eagle 13. But I think 10 and 11’s tough to start on early in the morning, so it was nice to get that out of the way, you kind of get off heading the right direction and really just tried to play within myself, not try to do anything special,” said Fowler.
“Still working on some stuff on the swing and the last few weeks and trying not to focus too much of that on the golf course, just go play and still getting used to the golf ball as well. So I’m happy with where we’re at and where we’re heading.”
Martin Laird and JT Poston were one back at 6-under par, one clear of a five-player logjam at 5 under, headlined by Bubba Watson.
Webb Simpson and Xander Schauffele lead a group of another 16 players tied at 4-under par. A threesome of former Phoenix winners in Phil Mickelson, Gary Woodland, and Hideki Matsuyama are among a group of 12 more golfers at 3 under 68.
THE TOP 10
1. Harold Varner III -7
1. Justin Thomas -7
1. Rickie Fowler -7
4. Martin Laird -6
4. J.T. Poston -6
7. Bubba Watson -5
7. Byeong-Hun An -5
7. Charley Hoffman -5
7. Scott Piercy -5
7. Tyrrell Hatton -5
EXIT QUESTIONS FOR RICKIE
How do you feel sharing the lead with Justin at the moment?
RICKIE FOWLER: I was really hoping I was going to make that last putt, I hit it perfect and it kind of, I thought it was going to break a little more at the end, it didn’t. We’re sharing a house this week, so I wanted bragging rights at dinner tonight. But, no, we’re going to keep it rolling, it’s going to be fun, hopefully we can keep it going into Sunday and put on a little boxing match.
Just you two guys in the house?
FOWLER: Yeah. Just us. Allison is here with me, obviously, and I think his, JT’s girlfriend will come in later this week.
Will that get weird tonight?
FOWLER: No, we share a lot of houses and we live half a mile down the street at home, so we spend a lot of time together, practice, play together, we enjoy pushing each other. So like I said, that was a little extra motivation, obviously I wanted to make that putt, and hit it perfect, it would just be nice to be able to needle him a little bit tonight.
Even though it’s only the first round will you guys talk about the round and just maybe jab each other a little bit about?
FOWLER: Yeah, for sure. One of the kind of one of the more fun weeks where we get houses.
The last few years over at the British we have had — last year we had two houses, but we had, there was like seven of us players. And so we all sit around, hang out, watch TV. And I think that’s one of the tournaments, between that and the Masters, you actually watch coverage and kind of see what’s going on because there’s play going all day.
So it’s fun to feed off each other. You also give each other a hard time, where things went wrong, where things were good, and I definitely enjoy it. I’ve always loved spending time around my friends and growing up junior golf practicing and kind of pushing each other, I feel like it always helped bring out the best in me.