American Scottie Scheffler takes a two-shot lead over Jon Rahm and Nick Taylor into the final round of the Phoenix Open, where he’s in search of a title repeat and a chance to regain the world No 1 ranking.
Scheffler, who started the round tied for the lead with Canadian Adam Hadwin, had four birdies in a three-under-par 68 for a 13 under par total of 200 at TPC Scottsdale.
That was two clear of third-ranked Spaniard Jon Rahm, who also carded a 68, and Canada’s Taylor, who posted a 67.
Rahm, like Scheffler, can overtake Rory McIlroy atop the world rankings on Sunday, the Northern Ireland star looking unlikely to challenge the leaders after a third-round 70 that left him tied for 28th, 10 shots off the lead.
Scheffler kickstarted his round with a 47-foot birdie putt at the 2nd hole and picked up another stroke with a 15-footer at the 4th. After his lone bogey of the round at the 13th he fired out of the rough to four feet at the 14th for another birdie.
He’d add one more at the par-four 17th, where his second shot raced up the side of the green, looking scarily close to rolling into the water before it settled just off the putting surface. He rolled in an 11-foot birdie putt from there.
“Feel good,” Scheffler said. “I didn’t hit it as well today as I hoped to. But still got around in three-under. Kept the ball in play for the most part. Just kept plugging along.
“Only one bogey was good today,” he added.
Scheffler posted his first PGA Tour win in Phoenix last year and went on to win at Bay Hill and The Masters before reaching No 1 in the world with a victory at the WGC Match Play.
He’s since seen McIlroy return to the top, while Rahm has been a dominant figure this year with victories in successive starts at the Tournament of Champions and in La Quinta, California.
The Spaniard, who was two back to start the round, shook off an opening bogey with a birdie at the 3rd.
He added three more coming in at 13, 14 and 16, thrilling the crowd at the par-three 16th – where the grandstands hold 20,000 spectators – by curling in a 40-foot putt.
His three-under effort left him on 11-under 202 and he and Taylor were one stroke in front of Hadwin (71) and American Jordan Spieth (69).
The crowd at 16 was fired up even before Rahm made his birdie putt, thanks to playing partner Adam Hadwin’s tee shot that landed just two feet from the pin.
“We felt the chaos going on,” Rahm said after fans threw drink cups and other objects on the green.
“I just thought it was best to not give it too much time. I didn’t want to give the crowd too much time to think about throwing anything else. So even through my routine somebody threw a bottle and I just went up and hit it. The break is not going to change.
“It was one of those things that luckily it went in and I got to enjoy that moment,” he said.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli is on seven under (T16) after a third-round 67 that included an eagle on the 3rd, four birdies and two bogies.
Erik van Rooyen is two over (T61), while Garrick Higgo and Christiaan Bezuidenhout both failed to make the cut.
© Agence France-Presse