SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Rickie Fowler shot 7-under 64 in Round 1 of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He was co-leading after the morning wave, in total command after a bogey-free 18 holes with five birdies and an eagle.
He still didn’t have bragging rights in his own house.
Thursday will be an interesting night at the rental home near TPC Scottsdale, which Fowler is sharing with fiancée Allison Stokke and morning co-leader Justin Thomas. Two top dogs under one roof.
“That was a little extra motivation,” Fowler said. “Obviously I wanted to make that putt (on nine) and I hit it perfect. It just would have been nice to be able to needle him a little bit tonight.”
Fowler started his day on the 10th tee and missed a chance at the outright lead when his 24-foot birdie try lipped out at No. 9, his last hole for the day.
Thomas eased into things and was 1-under through eight before ripping off a stretch of six birdies in seven holes. He closed with a 5-under 30 on the back to catch Fowler on the leaderboard.
“I was in total control of everything tee to green,” Thomas said. “I made some very low-stress birdies out there.”
This isn’t the first time the 25-year-old from Louisville has put himself in contention here. Thomas started his third round with six consecutive birdies last year for a two-shot lead. Suddenly it was Thomas’ tournament to lose, and he eliminated himself with a triple bogey at the par-5 15th followed by a stunning double bogey at the par-3 16th.
“It was a disaster there on 16,” Thomas said Thursday. “But that’s the thing about this course. I haven’t played it that great, even though I like it tee to green. I feel like it suits my game but I just have kind of had a (bad) round here or there and a couple holes. You just have to stay patient because you can get on a pretty good roll out here.”
Fowler is no stranger to the thick of the hunt here, either. He was runner-up by a stroke in 2010 and lost a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama in 2016. Fowler, who hasn’t won an official Tour event since the 2017 Honda Classic, put himself in good position with a strong opening round.
Fowler and Thomas had the benefit of playing early, while this thing still resembled an actual golf tournament.
Thousands of people lined the ropes Thursday morning. Sporadic boos and roars spilled out of the amphitheater at 16 and carried across the course. There’s a lot of drinking and a lot of noise in general, but on opening morning it wasn’t that different a scene than one would find at the Players Championship or Honda Classic. Larger in scale, for sure, but with a familiar tone.
Round 2 will be different.
By the time Fowler and Thomas tee off Friday afternoon, this tournament will have morphed into something else entirely. The galleries will swell to unfathomable sizes, the post-work party crowd will be out in full force and the golf will become secondary to the sum of this event.
It’s Fowler’s kind of party.
“I enjoy it when it’s loud in there,” Fowler said. “When it gets busy or packed I try to get them loud, just because then it’s a constant level of noise. You can adjust to anything that’s constant really. It’s when they try and quiet them down, and then there’s people yelling quiet and shushing. So just yell. It’s better.”
Thomas isn’t exactly an ideal candidate for the fun police either. He and Fowler just fit the overall vibes here, and fans recognize that. So the two housemates will have plenty of support Friday afternoon, both off to promising starts and hoping to atone for close calls in the past.
“There’s a lot of golf left,” Thomas said. “I just need to continue to do what I’m doing and stay positive and patient and just see if we can keep doing it.”