The WM Phoenix Open, held at TPC Scottsdale, Arizona, saw an intriguing turn of events as Canadian golfer Nick Taylor held a slim one-stroke lead at 13-under par, with only 12 holes remaining in the tournament’s third round. This pause in play was necessitated by the onset of darkness, halting the day’s events and setting the stage for a suspenseful conclusion. Taylor, aiming for his fourth PGA TOUR victory, had been in remarkable form, tying the course record with an 11-under 60 in the opening round. His performance in the subsequent rounds, although shortened by the early suspension, included a steady mix of pars and a birdie.
Close on Taylor’s heels was Sahith Theegala, who showcased his skills with an impressive series of birdies in the second round’s back nine. His efforts catapulted him to the forefront, momentarily securing a one-shot lead before the third round. Theegala’s early bogeys in Round 3 were quickly offset by a birdie, ensuring he remained a major contender.
The 35-year-old Taylor, a former University of Washington standout now residing near Scottsdale, faced stiff competition from other top golfers. Doug Ghim and Andrew Novak were just two shots behind, with Jordan Spieth and Cameron Young lurking at 10-under. Meanwhile, Scottie Scheffler, the reigning champion, sought a historic third consecutive Phoenix Open win, an achievement not seen on the PGA TOUR in over a decade. Scheffler was five shots back at 8-under, still within striking distance for the coveted title.
The Phoenix Open this year was challenged by unusual weather patterns for the region. Persistent rain and cooler temperatures marked the early days of the tournament, causing significant delays. These delays included a lengthy interruption on Thursday due to weather, and a frost delay on Friday that pushed tee times further back, spilling much of the second round into Saturday. Even Saturday saw a brief halt due to unplayable conditions, underscoring the tournament’s struggle against the elements.
Despite these challenges, the event, famously dubbed the “Greatest Show on Grass,” lived up to its reputation. It drew massive crowds, undeterred by the less-than-ideal weather, to the Scottsdale course known for its vibrant and sometimes rowdy atmosphere. The highlight of this fan engagement is the iconic 16th hole, a par-3 that transforms into a lively arena, where traditional golf etiquette gives way to a more festive and boisterous environment.
Players often relish this unique atmosphere, recognizing it as a once-a-year phenomenon. Yet, even amidst this lively setting, the focus remained on the intense competition, as the players navigated the course and the elements. Theegala, after his rise in the second round, commented on the rare scoreable conditions with no wind and soft greens, a stark contrast to typical conditions at TPC Scottsdale.
Looking ahead to Sunday, the forecast promised drier and slightly warmer conditions, though the possibility of another frost delay lingered. As the tournament progressed, the anticipation for a dramatic finish grew, with several players in contention for the prestigious title.