SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) For all his birdies Saturday, two big pars kept Martin Laird in control at the Phoenix Open.
Laird made 10-footers for par on the 16th and 18th holes and had a 3-under 68, giving him a three-shot lead going into the final round over a new pair of the next generation.
Hideki Matsuyama, the 22-year-old from Japan who already has seven worldwide victories, roared into contention with birdies on his last four holes for an 8-under 63, the low round of the tournament. Brooks Koepka, a 24-year-old who traveled the world to get back home to America, finally found some fairways and used his power to shoot 64. They were tied for second with Zach Johnson, who had a 67.
Laird, a 32-year-old Scot who has lived in Scottsdale the last 14 years, was at 13-under 200 as he goes for his fourth PGA Tour victory.
Among the 15 players within five shots of the lead was Francesco Molinari of Italy, who made a hole-in-one before more than 15,000 rowdy fans on the par-3 16th hole. It was the first ace in the notorious arena on Saturday – the biggest day at the Phoenix Open – since Tiger Woods in 1997.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was Jon Rahm of Spain, a junior at Arizona State playing this week on a sponsor’s exemption. He got the gallery on his side early, especially by wearing a Sun Devils jersey when he teed off on the 16th, and shot 66. Rahm was at 9-under 204, along with Ryan Palmer (68) and 21-year-old Justin Thomas, who had four birdies over his last six holes to salvage a 69.
COATES GOLF CLASSIC
OCALA, Fla. (AP) – With a notable double prize not only within reach, but practically in her grip, teen star Lydia Ko had to settle for half of the spoils.
Though the 17-year-old New Zealander blew a late lead in the LPGA Tour’s season-opening Coates Golf Classic to finish a shot behind Na Yeon Choi, she became the youngest player of either gender to reach No. 1 in the world ranking.
Ko, four strokes ahead on the front nine, double-bogeyed the 17th hole during a wild closing stretch, but still eclipsed Tiger Woods’ mark as the youngest to reach the game’s apex. Woods was 21 years, 5 months, 16 days when he reached the top in 1997. Ko did it at 17 years, 9 months, 7 days.
Choi shot a 4-under 68 to finish at 16 under. Ko had a 71 to tie for second with Jessica Korda (66) and Ha Na Jang (70).
DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Rory McIlroy shot a 6-under 66 to extend his lead to four strokes with a round left in the Dubai Desert Classic on Saturday.
The top-ranked McIlroy, a stroke ahead after the second round, had a 20-under 196 total on Emirates Golf Club’s Majlis Course. Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen was second after a 66, and England’s Lee Westwood was third at 14 under after a 69.