Jordan Spieth made a statement in the third round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Saturday, while Xander Schauffele was able to keep pace, with both sitting atop the lead at 18-under par after three rounds at Scottsdale, Ariz.
Spieth shot a 10-under-par 61 at TPC Scottsdale, while Schauffele fired a 6-under 65 to put themselves in the final group Sunday, heading into the final round with a three-shot lead and 195 total.
Spieth, a three-time major winner, had 10 birdies Saturday, the most he has delivered in a single round in his PGA Tour career. His 61 also tied his career-low round.
Schauffele, who held sole possession of the lead after the second round, delivered birdies in four of his last six holes, with his only blemish of the day coming early when he bogeyed the par-4 second hole.
Scottie Scheffler and South Korea’s Kyoung-Hoon Lee were tied for second at 15 under after each shot a 5-under 66 on Saturday.
Justin Thomas and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen were in a two-way tie for fifth place at 14 under. Thomas had a 7-under 64 on Saturday, while Oosthuizen topped that with an 8-under 63 that was tied for the low round of the tournament until Spieth finished his day.
With small galleries of 5,000 fans each day, Spieth still was able to inspire massive roars after long birdie putts at Nos. 16 and 17. It is the first tournament where crowds have been welcomed since the PGA Tour returned following last year’s pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The par-3 16th hole is known for rowdy crowds of as much as 15,000 people per day, but the much smaller gathering still made its presence felt after Spieth drained a 37-foot putt.
“I only wish it was last year,” Spieth said on the NBC broadcast. “It was loud, but last year it would have been another level. It was really cool. It’s so awesome on that hole. I three-putted from 8 feet (Friday) so I got it back there.”
Without a victory since the 2017 Open Championship, Spieth flashed back to his prime shooting 4-under on the front nine before putting on a show after the turn.
The 11-time winner on tour had birdies at Nos. 10 and 11 then just missed a 6-foot eagle putt at the par-5 13th hole before tapping in for a birdie. He added three more birdies at Nos. 15, 16 and 17.
“I felt like I was able to get to a place mechanically to where I can get back to playing some golf,” Spieth said. “To be able to hit some of the approach shots I did today I really haven’t had those in the bag for a while. I played with patience and I feel like I played with a lot of freedom and making a couple of putts at the end helps.”
Schauffele had birdies at Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to reach 17 under, then tied Spieth for the lead with a birdie at the short par-4 17th hole when he put his second shot to within 7 feet of the hole and knocked in the putt.
“(Sunday), hopefully I can get off to a good start, but if I don’t, I’d like to think I am playing good enough to make up shots,” Schauffele said on the broadcast. “Just stay patient. It’s something I didn’t do in the past. We’ll find out. This is something I wanted to do, to get into contention to see if I can win a golf tournament.”
Schauffele, who won the Tour Championship in 2017, will be looking for his first victory since 2019 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Hawaiian Islands.
Defending champion Webb Simpson, who fired a 6-under 65 to make the cut Friday, followed with a 2-under 69 on Saturday and is in a tie for 36th place at 6 under over three rounds.
–Field Level Media