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:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Justin Thomas shot a 30 (-5) on the front 9 today at the #WMPhoenixOpen and a 41 (+5) on the back. That 11-shot difference ties the largest front/back disparity in his PGA TOUR career. https://t.co/6iYktBB2gI2018-2-3 22:29:40
Justin Ray of Golf Channel showcased the rarity of a round with so many highs and lows:
Justin Ray @JustinRayGC
JT's round today was the 197th at @tpcscottsdale with 8 birdies/eagles or more. The previous 196 rounds all ended under par.2018-2-3 22:24:46
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:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Back-to-back-to-back 🐦! Rahm is making at the end of Round 3. #QuickHits https://t.co/6QhNhMEUa42018-2-3 22:46:34
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:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
After grinding out a 4-under-par 67, @RickieFowler heads into Sunday with a one-shot edge over a crowded leaderboard. Hear his thoughts on Round 3 and the extra motivation he has to take home a win in Phoenix. https://t.co/1LSJDjGCNL2018-2-4 00:04:53
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.