Waste Management Phoenix Open 2018: Rickie Fowler Holds Lead After Saturday

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2018

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03:  Rickie Fowler lines up a putt on the fifth hole during the third round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on February 3, 2018 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Rickie Fowler birdied the 18th hole Saturday to grab a one-shot lead at 14 under following the third round of the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona.

While Fowler stands alone atop the leaderboard heading into the final day, the stage is set for a wild finish, as there are 18 other golfers within five shots of the top spot. The chase pack includes Jon Rahm (-13), Bryson DeChambeau (-13), Phil Mickelson (-12) and Matt Kuchar (-10).

Alex Noren (-9), who finished second in the Farmers Insurance Open last week after a marathon playoff against Jason Day, also moved within striking distance with a bogey-free six-under 65.

Justin Thomas (-6) caused an early stir by starting his day with six consecutive birdies to rapidly climb the leaderboard into contention. He ended up posting a five-under 30 on the front nine, but the wheels came off after the turn, closing with a five-over 41 for one of the wildest even-par rounds you'll ever see.

His collapse on the back side was lowlighted by a triple bogey on the 15th, which was sandwiched between a bogey on No. 14 and a double bogey on No. 16.

ESPN Stats & Info‏ provide a note about Thomas' wild ride:

Justin Ray of Golf Channel showcased the rarity of a round with so many highs and lows:

Rahm enjoyed a far more routine day on the course. The 23-year-old Spaniard, who already has a win on his resume this season from the CareerBuilder Challenge last month, racked up seven birdies, including five over his last eight holes, and just one bogey.

The rising star has skyrocketed to second in the World Golf Ranking and could further establish himself as a top contender in the year's majors with a come-from-behind triumph Sunday.

A hot streak similar to the one he had starting on No. 15 in Round 3 would bolster those chances, as highlighted by the PGA Tour:

Meanwhile, Fowler started the day in sluggish fashion with six pars and a bogey over his first seven holes, but he came alive late to maintain control of first place. He closed out the round with three straight birdies, a run jump-started with a 17-foot birdie putt on the 16th.

The colorful American hasn't won a PGA Tour event since the Honda Classic in late February last year. He's played better as of late, however, including a victory in the unofficial Hero World Challenge, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see his Tour drought end Sunday.

The PGA Tour passed along some of his post-round comments:

Looking ahead, Sunday's round could end up being one of the most entertaining of the season. Not only are there a lot of players capable of winning the tournament, but the final holes at TPC Scottsdale have yielded plenty of birdies, which should add to the drama as Fowler tries to hold on.

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