Rickie Fowler is threatening to run away with the Waste Management Phoenix Open, shooting a 7-under-par 64 on Saturday in the third round at Scottsdale, Ariz.
Fowler is at 20-under 193 for the tournament, four shots in front of second-place Matt Kuchar, going into today’s final round.
Thanks to birdies on four of his first six holes in the third round, Fowler matched his first-round score.
Fowler had just one bogey in the round, giving him the best score turned in by any of the 73 golfers who made the cut.
The 30-year-old California will be aiming for his fifth victory on the PGA Tour.
Kuchar, who won last month’s Sony Open in Hawaii, notched birdies on each of the three par-5 holes. He carded a bogey-free round for his second consecutive round of 6 under par.
Kuchar has local ties. As a child, he spent summers in New Hampshire; his grandfather, Maurice, once starred in football at Manchester Central and the University of New Hampshire.
Justin Thomas (3-under on Saturday) is at 15-under after failing to keep pace with Fowler. Thomas was a first-round co-leader.
Thomas, who was a shot back entering the third round, was at 1-over for the day through 10 holes before rallying with four birdies the rest of the way.
Fowler and Thomas are sharing a house during this tournament, and they will be in the same grouping again on the final day of the event.
South Africa’s Branden Grace (3-under) and South Korea’s Byeong Hun An (6 -under) are at 13 under overall. An re-emerged among the strong contenders with birdies on three of the last four holes.
Defending champion Gary Woodland stayed on the leaderboard. He shot 5- under on Saturday to move to 12-under and into a tie for sixth place with Bubba Watson (3-under).
Harold Varner III, who was a first-round co-leader, recovered with a round of 3-under after shooting even par on Friday. He’s one of four golfers tied for eighth place at 10-under.
The Tour decided Saturday against imposing a two-stroke penalty on Denny McCarthy after his caddie appeared to help him line up a shot during Friday’s second round. McCarthy is now at 8-under, 12 strokes behind.
After hitting his second shot into the water at the par-15 15th hole at the TPC Scottsdale course, McCarthy lined up for his fourth shot with his caddie behind him. McCarthy then stepped back from the ball and lined up again on his own before hitting the shot.
Rule 10.2b (4), put in play for the 2019 season, states that a caddie “cannot deliberately stand in location on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason.” A similar violation was in question for Justin Thomas.
But after a day to think about the McCarthy violation, the PGA Tour, in an official statement, declined to penalize McCarthy and would not take action against Thomas. A similar violation was called against Haotong Li at last week’s Dubai Desert Classic.
The PGA Tour reconsidered the latest violation by saying, “In each of these cases, when the caddie was standing behind the player, the player had not yet begun taking the stance for the stroke, nor could useful guidance on aiming be given because the player was still in the process of determining how to play the stroke.”
The statement said the PGA Tour will work “in the coming days” to better interpret and apply the new rule.
By giving McCarthy back the two strokes, he stood at 8 under par instead of 6 under after 36 holes.