SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Two of the biggest stars in golf. One of the game’s biggest stages. Well-oiled fans who couldn’t have rooted harder. The second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open had everything you could ask for … but it could’ve been even better.
The featured group of Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler (and Jon Rahm) led huge crowds around TPC Scottsdale on Friday. The players seemed to feed off each other and the gallery as they worked their way up the leaderboard at an event where each of the previous three winners had been three or more shots back entering the weekend.
That’s good news for the duo who are three shots (Fowler) and six shots (Spieth) off the lead after leaving plenty of shots out there, especially on the greens. Fowler made four birdies and a bogey in his 3-under 68, but he missed a makeable eagle try at 13 and birdie putts at 14, 15 and 16.
“I have played some good golf the last two days,” Fowler said. “But I’m going to have to play better over the next two days if I want a chance of winning.”
Spieth matched him with a 68 of his own, going out in a blistering 31, then adding two more birdies on 11 and 13; but he lipped out a birdie try on 12, made a bogey on 14, didn’t cash in birdie putts on 15 and 17 and made an ugly double bogey on 18 when he found the water off the tee.
“I hit some good putts at the end that just missed. Kind of second-guessed a couple of reads,” Spieth said. “I have just been looking for that groove putting, and it’s almost there. Feels like it’s close.”
No offense to Rahm, who did get some hometown Arizona State support, but Spieth and Fowler are superstars – likeable superstars – and the fans let them hear it the whole day.
This wasn’t the Ryder Cup where fan support was on one side or another, and at times over the top. Everyone wanted to see these guys go low, and Spieth and Fowler did their best to oblige as they chatted their way down one fairway after another.
For the most part, the patrons were respectful. One dude offered Spieth a beer. He declined.
Some fans were nice enough to concede putts, yelling “good-good!” at the twosome.
One guy yelled, “TCU runs the BIG 12, brother!” as Spieth, a Texas Longhorn, walked by.
And that was all before they got to the famed 16th, which has gotten rowdier by the day.
When the announcer told the stadium crowd to quiet down before Fowler’s tee shot, he turned and pumped his arms, getting everyone on their feet and screaming.
“I’m definitely comfortable on this golf course,” Fowler said. “I think out of any Tour event I’ve played the most here … and it’s fun playing in front of loud crowds.”
It’s fair to say the spring-break buddies enjoyed their time Friday as they made their stroll around the golf course. If they start dropping a few more putts over the weekend, things could get downright delightful.
“The way I feel over the ball, I’m very confident,” Spieth said. “I know as well as anybody that once a couple start going in, they start pouring in.”
For everyone in attendance this weekend at TPC Scottsdale, let’s hope that happens.