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Golf – Haas leads by two at Phoenix Open
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Golf – Haas leads by two at Phoenix Open

(Reuters) – Bill Haas used a hot start to jump to the first-round lead as several big names queued up close behind at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Arizona on Thursday.

Haas shrugged off a late tee time to card seven-under-par 64 in front of a typically raucous and large crowd at TPC Scottsdale, two strokes ahead of a five-strong group including fellow American Rickie Fowler.

Spanish world number two Jon Rahm is three behind, while American Justin Thomas trails by four.

In a field that includes four of the top five players in the world rankings, Japanese two-times defending champion Hideki Matsuyama made a decent start to trail by five shots, but out-of-sorts American Jordan Spieth struggled to a one-over 72.

Haas, who teed off at the 10th hole, surged to five-under after seven holes, helped in no small part by an eagle at the par-five 15th, where he sank a 20-footer.

Fowler, a playoff loser to Matsuyama two years ago, also eagled the 15th, where he warmed to his task on a brisk morning, lashing a five-wood to inside two feet.

“I knew going out early this morning when it was cold the first few holes on the back nine can jump up and get you if you’re not careful,” he told Golf Channel.

”I eased into the round nicely … turned at three under, did a good job of saving a couple of pars, rolled in a long one (45 feet) on four and good birdie on eight.”“I don’ think (the course is) too particularly demanding off the tee, but you need to get it into the fairway to have a chance with these greens once they firm up.”

Fowler, who won the unofficial Hero World Challenge in December, is coming off an uncharacteristic missed cut at Torrey Pines last week, but shrugged it off as a mere blip on the radar.

“Last week was a little hiccup, just made a few too many mistakes. We’re right back where we left off (before that).”

Reporting by Andrew Both in Adelaide, South Australia; Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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