• Party just getting started for Fowler

    Rickie Fowler
    Rickie knows what it takes

    Rickie Fowler took a share of the lead into the weekend in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He knows from experience the party is just getting started.

    ‘Just keep the gas pedal down,’ Fowler said.

    Fowler has had a lot of success at TPC Scottsdale without winning. He finished a shot behind Hunter Mahan in 2010, lost to Hideki Matsuyama on the fourth extra hole in 2016, and tied for fourth last year.

    ‘From the first couple times I played it, I knew it was just kind of a matter of time before I would win here,’ Fowler said. ‘I know I can win here. I put myself in position plenty of times.’

    Fowler was tied with Bryson DeChambeau, with each shooting his second straight five-under 66.

    The festive tournament drew an estimated Friday-record crowd of 191,400 fans, bringing the week total to 439,088. The third-round mark of 204,906 set last year is expected to be shattered Saturday, and the week record of 655,434 from a year ago could fall with a day to spare.

    DeChambeau birdied the final two holes, hitting a wedge to 8 inches on the par-4 18th late on another 80-degree (Fahrenheit) afternoon.

    ‘I missed a few short putts on the back nine, so definitely didn’t play my best,’ DeChambeau said.

    He won the John Deere Classic last year. In 2015, the former SMU star became the fifth player to win the NCAA individual title and U.S. Amateur in the same year.

    Daniel Berger and former Arizona State player Chez Reavie were a stroke back.

    Berger had a bogey-free 65.

    ‘This is the fourth time I’ve been here, so I’ve kind of figured it out a little bit,’ Berger said. ‘Mostly, it’s just about just enjoying yourself.’

    Fowler birdied four of the first six holes. He bogeyed his old nemesis, the 317-yard 17th, after driving short of the green to the left and chipping across and off the green.

    ‘Funky little chip where we were in a good position to make birdie,’ Fowler said.

    Two years ago, he blew a two-stroke lead on 17 in regulation when he drove through the green and into the water, then handed the playoff to Matsuyama when he hit into the water again.

    Fowler is wearing a pin on his hat with a picture of Griffin Connell, the area boy he befriended at the event who died last week at age 7. Connell was born with a rare airway disorder.

    ‘I don’t think it’s a coincidence he’s playing so well this week, either,’ said Griffin’s father, Jim Connell. ‘Griffin, he’s not here with us, but we know he’s watching from above.’

    Scott Stallings (65), Chesson Hadley (68) and Chris Kirk (68) were 8 under, and Phil Mickelson (65) and fellow former Arizona State player Jon Rahm (68) topped the group at 7 under.

    Justin Thomas and first-round leader Bill Haas were 6 under.

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