Laird pushes lead to 3 in Phoenix|
Scottsdale, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Martin Laird shot 3-under 68 on Saturday
and he extended his lead to three strokes after 54 holes of the Phoenix Open.
Laird ended three rounds at 13-under-par 200. He will go for his fourth PGA
Tour title on Sunday.
Hideki Matsuyama fired an 8-under 63, the low round of the week at the TPC
Scottsdale, and he soared into a share of second place at minus-10. He was
joined there by Brooks Koepka (64) and Zach Johnson (67).
Jon Rahm, who is a member of the Arizona State golf team, posted a 5-under 66
and he improved into a tie for fifth at 9-under-par 204. He stands alongside
first-round leader Ryan Palmer (68) and Justin Thomas (69).
Bubba Watson (69), Angel Cabrera (69) and Francesco Molinari (64) are among
nine players tied for eighth place at minus-8. Molinari had a hole-in-one on
the raucous par-3 16th.
Laird, who led by two when the second round was completed earlier Saturday,
stumbled out of the gate as he bogeyed the first. He atoned for that mistake
with a 5-foot birdie putt on the third. Laird made it two in a row as he
birdied the fourth from seven feet out.
After three straight pars, Laird drained a 15-footer for birdie at the ninth
to make the turn at 11-under. He poured in a long birdie try from off the
green at No. 11.
Laird moved to minus-13 with a kick-in birdie at the 13th. He scrambled for
par on 14 after finding the rough off the tee.
"That's just a brutal hole. If you miss the fairway, it's almost an automatic
layup. That was a big up and down for par," stated Laird about the 14th.
He found water off the tee at the par-5 15th and that led to his third bogey
of the round. The Scotsman bounced back with a 4-foot birdie putt at No. 17.
Laird closed with a par at the last to end three clear of the field.
"It was wedge and I didn't hit that bad of a shot, making bogey with a wedge
on a par-3 you're never happy, especially on that hole. They're going to let
you know about it. So that was a big one because I had just come off a bogey
on the par-5 before," Laird said of his par at 16. "Then I managed to get one
back with a birdie at 17. I had fun out there even though it was a little
erratic at the end."
Matsuyama converted back-to-back birdies at two and three before running off
four straight pars from the fourth. He drained a 23-footer for birdie at No. 8
and he birdied the ninth en route to making the turn at minus-5.
The reigning Memorial winner started his second nine with three more pars. He
chipped to two feet at the par-5 13th and knocked that in for birdie.
Matsuyama began a hot closing stretch with a 2-putt birdie at the par-5 15th.
He followed with birdies at 16 and 17, both from inside six feet. Matsuyama
ran in a 17-footer for birdie at the last to gain a share of second place.
Koepka had a slow start to his round with eight pars and a birdie on the front
nine. He jumped up the leaderboard with three birdies in the first four holes
around the turn. Koepka birdied three in a row from the 15th, all from inside
10 feet, to soar to minus-10.
"I'm very pleased with how I played the back nine. I knocked a bunch of rust
off and I'm trying to get back into the swing of things since this is the
first event of the season for me," said Koepka.
Johnson opened with a birdie, but followed with four straight pars. He drained
a long birdie try at the sixth, but gave that shot back when he failed to save
par from the rough at the eighth.
Around the turn, Johnson jumped to minus-10 as he ran off three consecutive
birdies from the 13th. He closed his round with three pars in a row.
NOTES: Laird, whose last PGA Tour victory was at the 2013 Texas Open, owns the
54-hole lead for the fourth time in his PGA Tour career ... He won one of the
previous three times he was in that position ... Matsuyama had one of the 10
bogey-free rounds ... Saturday's attendance was down from last year, but there
were still 159,906 at the course during round three.
01/31 19:11:00 ET