PGA Tour

Laird stretches lead in Phoenix

2015-02-01 08:42
Martin Laird (Gallo Images)

Phoenix - Scotsman Martin Laird fired a three-under par 68 and stretched his PGA Tour Phoenix Open lead to three shots despite a charge from Japan's Hideki Matsuyama in Saturday's third round.

Laird, who began the day with a two-shot cushion, fired six birdies against three bogeys to stand on 13-under 200 after 54 holes with Matsuyama, who fired a bogey-free 63 sharing second on 203 with Americans Brooks Koepka and Zach Johnson.

Spanish amateur Jon Rahm shared fifth on 204 with Americans Justin Thomas and Ryan Palmer.

Laird opened with a bogey, rallied with a five-foot birdie putt at the third and a seven-foot birdie putt at the fourth but found an unplayable lie off the fifth tee and rescued bogey with a 25-foot putt.

After closing the front nine with a 15-foot birdie putt, Laird sank a 47-foot birdie putt on 11, followed with tense 12-footer to avoid dropping a shot at the par-3 12th and holed a nine-foot birdie putt at the par-5 13th.

Laird made bogey at the par-5 15th then sandwiched 10-foot par putts at 16 and 18 around a four-foot birdie putt at 17.

"It was an interesting day," Laird said. "I hit a few unbelievable shots and a few bad ones. I made a lot of putts. Hopefully I can keep putting well and stay where I am."

Laird is seeking his fourth PGA title, having won the 2009 Shriners Childrens Hospitals Open, the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the 2013 Texas Open.

"I'd like to hit it well tomorrow and post a good number," Laird said. "I'd like to go out and play a little more solid. I'd like not to have to rely on 10-footers for par going down the back nine."

Laird has led entering the final round three prior times in PGA events, his Bay Hill win, his runnerup effort in defending his Shriners crown and in a playoff loss at the 2010 Barclays.

Matsuyama birdied the second from 11 feet and put his approach at the par-5 third inches from the pin. A 23-foot birdie putt at the eighth and an approach to two feet to set up a birdie at the par-5 13th followed.

Then the Asian star closed with four birdies in a row, capping the run with a 16-foot birdie putt after a two-putt birdie from 25 feet at the par-5 15th and short birdie putts at the par-3 16th and par-4 17th.

Italy's Francesco Molinari made the ninth ace in tournament history at the rowdy par-3 16th from 133 yards, a roar from 15 000 spectators in a specially made grandstand followed by fans hurling beer cans onto the area beside the green in celebration, requiring a 10-minute clean-up.

Scores after Saturday's third round of the $6.3 million PGA Tour's Phoenix Open (USA unless noted, par 71):

200 - Martin Laird (SCO) 66-66-68

203 - Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 69-71-63, Brooks Koepka 71-68-64, Zach Johnson 66-70-67

204 - Jon Rahm (ESP) 70-68-66, Ryan Palmer 64-72-68, Justin Thomas 67-68-69

205 - Russell Henley 69-71-65, Russell Knox (SCO) 69-71-65, Kevin Chappell 75-65-65, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 70-71-64, Robert Streb 66-70-69, Angel Cabrera (ARG) 67-69-69, Bubba Watson 65-71-69, Ryan Moore 69-67-69, Daniel Berger 65-69-71

206 - James Hahn 67-73-66, Rory Sabbatini (RSA) 68-71-67, Graham DeLaet (CAN) 67-70-69

207 - Brian Stuard 72-68-67, Pat Perez 70-69-68, Geoff Ogilvy (AUS) 68-69-70

208 - Matt Kuchar 70-70-68, Andrew Svoboda 70-70-68, Stewart Cink 70-71-67, Michael Putnam 70-71-67, Kevin Na 73-69-66, Brandt Snedeker 70-68-70, Jordan Spieth 70-68-70

Read more on:    pga tour  |  golf

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