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.