Scottsdale, Ariz. — The WM Phoenix Open is known for welcoming extreme crowd chaos, but Saturday’s capacity issues took that tradition to an entirely new level.
After security shut the tournament gates at around 2 p.m. ET and on-site bars stopped serving alcohol, even three-time major champion Jordan Spieth faced some hurdles trying to re-enter the tournament for his 3 p.m. third-round tee time.
“When I went home and when I came back, I couldn’t come the same direction,” Spieth explained. “The police officers had blocked it off, so I drove up and I said, ‘How am I supposed to get back to the course?’ He said, ‘We’re over capacity. It’s hazardous, so we’ve got to go through a different [entrance].’
“Once he said that, I thought maybe we were in a little bit of trouble this afternoon, but we were on the front nine so it was a little less rowdy, and I heard they stopped alcohol sales.”
Despite the initial scare, Spieth enjoyed the raucous Saturday crowds, which players typically only run into on the back-nine of the Stadium course. The offset third-round tee times meant that the front nine was just as unruly.
“It was really cool actually to see that many people on the front nine,” Spieth said. “You typically just see them on the back nine here and then occasionally on 9 and a couple other spots. They were fantastic. Saturday is normally the big day, but I think with 27 holes tomorrow, we might see some more people come out than usual on Sunday anyway.”
After eventually making it through the TPC Scottsdale gates, Spieth and his pairing of Charley Hoffman and Kurt Kitayama were able to finish the first half of their third rounds. Play was suspended due to darkness at 6:11 p.m. local time, with Nick Taylor leading at 13-under and Sahith Theegala one shot behind at 12-under.
Spieth, who now sits three shots back at 10-under par, came into his late-afternoon Saturday tee time carrying some serious momentum. The Texan closed his second round with four birdies and a chip-in eagle on the drivable par-4 17th to post a 5-under 66.
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Spieth’s back-nine tear commenced only after the second round of the tournament was delayed for a bizarre 21-minute period on Saturday morning. To assure conditions remained playable, players were held in position as a brief rain storm passed.
“I made a nice par putt this morning to not bogey a par-5 from last night, and I thought that was a really nice one to salvage, and then we got delayed for rain,” Spieth said. “That ending stretch of the front nine when it was kind of cold and wet becomes very challenging, so I was just trying to hit the middle of greens and have looks and then took advantage of the back nine with a couple bonuses.”
As the sun began to creep behind the surrounding mountains at TPC Scottsdale, Spieth teed off for his third round and carded a 33 on the front nine. He closed out the marathon of a day by sinking a 32-footer on the par-4 9th, when trying only to lag the putt into tap-in range before tomorrow’s restart.
“I was trying to slow play on 9 and not hit the putt,” Spieth said. “We knew they were going to blow the horn any second, and then it was time to go, so I hit it and hoped and I was just trying to get it somewhere honestly in a three-foot circle. It was pretty dark on the green. Certainly fortunate there. I feel like I’ve had a few long ones go in, a couple chip-ins this week, and I really would like to tighten it up a little bit more and not rely on those.”
The third round is set to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time. Spieth will only look to continue going low in the desert as he chases his 14th PGA Tour victory.