A marathon day was just about to conclude at TPC Scottsdale and it seemed there wasn’t going to be a repeat of the energy of Sam Ryder’s electric Saturday ace from a year ago at the coliseum hole 16th.
But as the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait.
Thanks to still needing to catch up from Thursday’s frost delay, the second round concluded Saturday morning. Those who sprinted from the gates at 7 a.m. to find a seat at the WM Phoenix Open‘s stadium hole got bonus golf for a couple of hours. Yet, even with the yardage set at just 128 yards when the third round began, no one really flirted with an ace.
Heroics were lacking and there were even some empty seats among the some 20,000 that ring the hole.
Then, with only about 40 minutes of daylight left, the final group came to the tee.
First was Jon Rahm. The Scottsdale resident and Arizona State alumnus was on a roll after an uneven start to his day. He birdied two of the previous three holes to climb back into contention.
His tee shot at the iconic par-3? Uninspiring, finishing 41 feet long and right. After the strike, immediately started motioning for his ball to get down.
Next up, World No. 2 and tournament leader by one, Scottie Scheffler.
His attempt was hole high but well right, just 11 feet closer than Rahm.
The final shot of the day fell to Adam Hadwin. The Canadian had just bogeyed the easy par-5 15th to fall out of the top 5 for the first time all day after starting the round tied with Scheffler at 10 under.
It was clear he was having trouble choosing a club.
He called back in caddie Joe Cruz. They threw up some grass to gauge the wind as the crowd grew restless.
Just when he looked set, he did the unthinkable: he backed off.
The boos rained down from the crowd. Cruz came back in and Hadwin just smiled as CBS showed a woman dancing on a table in a hospitality suite behind him.
Finally, after what had to feel like the longest three minutes to the likely tired and well-served crowd, Hadwin struck his tee shot.
The ball landed about 20 feet right of the hole, spun left, caught a slope and started tracking toward the hole.
“Come on! Keep rolling baby!” shouted announcer Colt Knost. “The best shot of the day on the last shot of the day.”
It wasn’t a repeat of Ryder’s ace, but the ball settled just 17 inches from the hole, the closest of the day.
Hadwin could only stand there in disbelief for a moment after the confusion he had in the shot selection.
The crowd went wild and not even a ban on aluminum cans could stop them from chucking the plastic cups of beer and bottles of soda onto the green.
For the second year in a row, play stopped to clean up the 16th green.
Only it wouldn’t be the end of the show.
After things got cleared up, Rahm still had his putt.
“We felt the chaos going on. I just thought it was best to not give it too much time,” Rahm said after the round of the putt. “I didn’t want to give the crowd too much time to think about throwing anything else. So even through my routine, somebody threw a bottle and I just went up and hit it.”
His lag started way out to the left, prompting more boos from the crowd.
They turned out to be premature.
The ball had perfect speed and caught the slope about six feet from the hole. It curled right into the center of the cup.
Rahm put his hands up in the air and then to his ears. The beer and trash went flying once again.
“It was one of those things that luckily it went in and I got to enjoy that moment,” he said.
After Hadwin hit the closest shot of the day, Rahm ended up with the longest made putt of the day.
It turned out to be a crucial one for Rahm too. Although Scheffler would extend his lead back to two at 13 under on 17, the birdie pulled Rahm back into second and two pars got him back into the final group for Sunday.
Should Scheffler or Rahm end up winning Sunday, they would likely supplant Rory McIlroy as World No. 1.