Three share lead after first round at Phoenix Open

Harold Varner III overcame an early bogey with three consecutive birdies, moving himself in position to tie for the lead Thursday.

He got the job done with a long putt and a dab on the loudest hole in golf.

Varner snaked in a long birdie putt on the par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale (Ariz.) to highlight a 7-under-par 64 that tied hime with Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas for the first-round lead at the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open.

Varner set off the rowdiest roars of the afternoon with his 31-foot putt at the hole turned into a stadium, celebrating with the dab toward the sky.

“I love entertaining people and what better hole to do it,” Varner said.

After the birdie on No. 16, Varner three-putted on the par-4 17th and missed an 18-foot birdie putt on 18.

“I played well, drove it really well and had lots of opportunities,” Varner said. “I’m just excited to be playing in this event. I love this event.”

Martin Laird and J.T. Poston were a shot back at 65 and four players shot 66, including two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson. Another 16 players shot 67 on a day when 70 players were under par.

Defending champion Gary Woodland and Phil Mickelson each shot 68.

Thomas started on the back nine and went out in 2-under 34 with birdies on Nos. 15 and 18. His putt on 18 began a stretch of six birdies in seven holes, including five on putts inside of 5 feet as he shot a 5-under 30 on the front nine.

“I was in control of everything tee to green,” Thomas said. “I didn’t necessarily get off to the greatest start score-wise, but I felt like I was playing well.”

Fowler also started on No. 10 and jump-started his round with an eagle on the par-5 13th after knocking his 236-yard approach shot to 17 feet. He also two-putted from 45 feet for birdie on No. 3, but misread a putt on the par-4 ninth that would have given him the outright lead.

European Tour: Thomas Pieters shot a 7-under 63 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round at the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City.

Pieters made seven birdies and was bogey-free at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, where the world’s top three players — Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson — are playing.

None of those three was within four shots of the lead, with Johnson, ranked third, faring best after a 68. Koepka shot 69 and Rose, who’s top-ranked, bogeyed the last hole for a 70.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/golf/article/Three-share-lead-after-first-round-at-Phoenix-Open-13579497.php.

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