Birdies Galore At Waste Management Phoenix Open, David Hearn Top Canadian After Round 1

After Monday Qualifying, David Hearn Finished The First Round At The Waste Management Phoenix Open As The Low Canadian In A T7 After Carding a (4-under) 67 - Image Courtesy Golf Canada

By Alfie Lau

When rain pelted California and even Arizona 10 days ago, it softened the golf courses to the point where birdies, birdies and more birdies have been needed to win in Palm Desert, San Diego and, it appears, at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Adam Long’s (-26) two weeks ago and Justin Rose’s (-21) in San Diego portend similar numbers needed to triumph in Phoenix after several players shot (-7) 64 on the par-71 Stadium Course.

The two notable early leaders are good friends and roommates for the week, young American stars Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas.

After opening with pars on his first five holes, Thomas went on a birdie barrage, making seven birdies in his next 10 holes before finishing with three more pars and a clean scorecard. Fowler also had a clean scorecard, highlighted by five birdies and an eagle on the par-5 13th hole.

Fowler talked about his living arrangements with Thomas this week. “We share a lot of houses and we live half a mile down the street at home, so we spend a lot of time together,” said Fowler. “We enjoy pushing each other.”

Thomas didn’t have much to complain about on a picture perfect day full of birdies. “It was a good day today,” he said. “I was in control of everything tee to green. . . . I was driving it well to where I had wedges and I made some very low stress birdies out there.

Harold Varner III also posted a (-7) round of 64 punctuated by eight birdies and one lone bogey on the day.

Monday qualifier David Hearn of Brantford, ON was the low Canadian on the day, as he made six birdies Thursday to continue his hot hand after shooting 65 at McCormick Ranch. But a costly double at the par-3 12th meant Hearn is in a logjam of golfers tied at (-4) 67.

Hearn could have gone even lower, but an indifferent approach on the par-5 15th from 115 yards didn’t lead to birdie and after hitting the 16th from 142 yards to the centre of the green, Hearn read a tad too much break in his 24 foot birdie putt. Hearn did have a nice up-and-down birdie at 17, his final one of the day, to finish within three strokes of the leaders after the opening day.

The dream seemingly died early for Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin, who opened with bogey, triple bogey and bogey for his opening three holes, including having to take two penalties on the 11th, his second hole of the day. After going into the water on the driveable par-4 17th and taking another bogey to go to +6, Hadwin found his second wind, making birdies on five of his next six holes to finish at (+1) 72.

Hadwin finds himself tied with fellow Canadians Mackenzie Hughes and Nick Taylor, who really couldn’t get much positive momentum going on a day when almost every player seemed to be making buckets of birdies.

Taylor had three birdies and four bogeys, while Hughes made two bogeys and just one birdie, at the raucous 16th hole.

Ontario’s Blair Hamilton, who Monday qualified into Phoenix, had a rough start by going bogey-bogey on his first two holes and adding two more bogeys and just one birdie for his front nine. But Hamilton steadied the ship and made a couple of birdies and just one bogey in his final nine to finish at (+2) 72.

Other notable scores include Bubba Watson at (-5) 66; Xander Schauffele and Jon Rahm at (-4) 67; defending champion Gary Woodland, two-time champion Hideki Matsuyama and three-time champion Phil Mickelson all at (-3) 68.

And to show you how easy TPC Scottsdale played today, here’s what Mickelson had to say after his round. “I didn’t probably play my best,” said the lefty fan favourite. “I didn’t really putt great and didn’t drive it great. But I shot 3-under and it’s an OK start. And to birdie the last feels good too, so it was a good way to finish. But all in all, I didn’t feel like I played great, but I didn’t shoot myself out of it so that’s a positive.”

With three round left to play in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, it appears, a final score better than (-20), as in the past two weeks, will be needed to hoist the winning trophy on Super Bowl Sunday.