Lowry off his greens as Fowler edges one clear in Phoenix
 Rickie Fowler. Image: wmphoenixopen.com

Rickie Fowler. Image: wmphoenixopen.com

Shane Lowry had a poor day on and around the greens to slip to the back of the pack in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

As Rickie Fowler birdied his last three holes and fired a four-under 67 to lead by a shot from Jonn Rahm, Chez Reavie and Bryson DeChambeau on 14-under par, Lowry had 33 putts in a three-over 74 to lie 68th in the 72-man field on two-over.
The Clara man (30) drove the ball far better than he did on the first two days, hitting 11 of 14 fairways.

But his misses left him in awkward spots and while the inconsistency of bunkers did him few favours, his putter was not warm enough to save him on a day when a record 216,818 crowd — the largest ever recorded at a golf event — packed TPC Scottsdale.

The Offaly star missed six greens but scrambled for par just once as he began his round on the back nine but missed three times with the putter inside eight feet.

Short-sided in a bunker left of the par-three 12th, his third, he walked off with a double-bogey as he overshot the green with his recovery before taking three more to get down, missing a five-footer for bogey. 

He then had to settle for par at the par-five 13th again short-siding himself left of the green in two.

At the 14th, he finished up 25 yards right of the pin in the rough and could only pitch to 15 feet, missing the par putt.

But while he got a shot back at the par-five 15th, splashing out to seven feet from a greenside bunker, he took three to get down from the front edge of the driveable 17th and only made par.

He managed to turn in one over 37, firing a 110-yard approach to a foot at the 18th. But he came home in a disappointing two-over 37.

After back to back birdies at the second (10 footer) and par-five third (two putts), he missed six-footer for par at the fifth, then double-bogeyed the sixth by going from a fairway bunker to greenside sand before three-putting from 42 feet.

A frustrating day then came to a head at the eighth, where he was on the back fringe in two but took three to get down from 20 feet.

Ranked 61st for scrambling and 68th for strokes-gained putting, Lowry will be disappointed to have missed six of 14 putts between four and inside eight feet so far this week having topped the putting charts on the PGA Tour inside 10 feet last year.

At the other end of the leaderboard, Fowler shot his 12th consecutive sub-par round in the event to lead by one shot from DeChambeau and fellow Arizona State University products Rahm and Reavie.

A former standard bearer at the event, Scottsdale resident Reavie posted a third-round 67 as Rahm posted a 65 and DeChambeau a 68.

Reigning FedExCup champion and seven-time PGA Tour winner Justin Thomas opened his third round with six consecutive birdies but later endured a bogey-triple bogey-double bogey run from the  14th to the 16th en route to an even-par 71. 

After beginning the day tied for 12th and moving into a two-stroke lead at one point, Thomas currently stands tied 26th, eight strokes behind Fowler.

With the top 17 on the leaderboard covered by just four strokes — three=time winner Phil Mickelson is just two shots behind in fifth —  Fowler knows it's wide open.

"It's anyone's tournament tomorrow," said Fowler, who was second in 2010 and 2016 (playoff) and tied fourth last year.

"Yeah, I have a one-shot lead, but this tournament is not going to be given to anyone. You saw how much movement there was early, guys can go out and shoot four, 5-under on the front nine pretty quickly. 

"Really the tournament is the last six, seven holes. I would say the last six holes, once you get to 13, then it's a sprint to the finish in a way with how many scoring opportunities there are. 

"So really tomorrow, stay patient, get off to a little bit better start, have some fun with it."

Mickelson (47) is seeking his first since he won the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield and he believes the crowd can be his inspiration.

"I think that to give me the best chance for my first win in a long time this would be the place to do it because I really do feel the energy of the crowd and the support coming down the stretch," he said after producing some trademark short game magic to shoot  a bogey-free 66. 

"And if I can just play a good solid front nine and get up there in contention, those last five, six holes, I seem to play some of my best golf, hit some of my best shots in that environment with the people here the way they have been so supportive. So this is as good an opportunity."