Byeong Hun An shoots 65, leads by one in Phoenix Open

By Mike Tulumello, The Sports Xchange
South Korean golfer Byeong-hun An reads the green. Photo by Yonhap News Agency/UPI
South Korean golfer Byeong-hun An reads the green. Photo by Yonhap News Agency/UPI

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Massive crowds don't spook young golfer Byeong Hun An.

On a day when the Waste Management Phoenix Open drew an estimated 204,906, a record for spectators at a golf event, the 25-year-old Korean shot a bogey-free, 6-under-par 65 Saturday to take a one-stroke lead over Martin Laird of Scotland, after three rounds at the TPC Scottsdale.


An, who has never won on the PGA Tour career but captured the European Tour's flagship event -- the BMW PGA Championship -- in 2015, has a 54-hole total of 197.

His goal for Sunday?

"Play bogey free and play smart," said An, who played in college and is a former U.S. Amateur champ.

In fact, he would be happy to match Saturday's round.

"Bogey free and shooting six under; you can't do better than that," he said.


An had never seen the TPC Scottsdale until this week. But the course "suits my eye" with few serious doglegs, so, "You hit drivers and try to carry the bunkers. The yardages fit me nicely. Everything just suits my game and this course."

In addition, he said, "I like desert golf courses." Unlike courses with lots of water hazards, "If you miss, you are in the desert and you can still play your shots."

Well, except for Nos. 17 and 18, where water is prominently in play, a consideration that "kind of freaks me out."

As for those noisy, jam-packed galleries, ""It's crazy ... insane," and yet, "pretty cool," An said.

Saturday's record bested the 201,003 set on Saturday of last year's tournament, the first time any event had cracked 200,000 for a day.

"I'd never seen people like this. I think it's fun as long as nobody yells at my downswing," he said.

The TPC Scottsdale's stadium course, which is built for huge crowds, regularly draws the biggest crowds in golf.

With this week's tournament drawing 597,660 so far, the week-long record of 618,365 set last year will fall Sunday.

Laird was flawless after his only bogey on the second hole, following that with four straight birdies and added three birdies on the back nine in another 65.


Laird, who contended at the Phoenix Open last year, said, "I'd say I'm definitely better at coping with the crowds and all the mayhem the last three holes."

John Peterson, the 2011 NCAA champion from LSU, eagled the 13th hole in a round of 63 and was three shots behind in a tie for third with defending champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who recorded a second straight 68, Michael Kim, who totaled 66, and Graham DeLaet (65) of Canada.

At 11 under are first-round leader Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman, William McGirt, J.J. Spaun and Brendan Steele, who was tied for the lead with An at 10-under heading into Saturday's round.

Crowd favorite Phil Mickelson, who played nearby at Arizona State and has won the Phoenix Open three times, posted a 65 and is six shots back in a tie for 12th.

"I'm excited about tomorrow's round," Mickelson said. "If I can get off to a good start and shoot 3-, 4-, 5-under on the front nine, that back nine has so much excitement and opportunity that I would love to play those final six holes with a chance, because there are a lot of birdies and eagles out there."


Also at 10-under are Louis Oosthuizen, Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry and Daniel Berger.

Mickelson attributed the perfect weather -- no wind, temperatures peaking in the mid-70s -- for Saturday's low scores.

Jon Rahm, last week's winner in San Diego, shot a 65, including a 6-under 30 on the back nine (Rahm's first nine holes), good for 9 under. Rickie Fowler also is among the golfers at 9 under. Jordan Spieth is at 8 under.

NOTES: Last year, Danny Lee had a three-stroke lead after 54 holes. Matsuyama came from three shots back to defeat Fowler in a playoff. ... Peterson shot his 63 despite a double bogey at No. 6. He offset this with eight birdies and his eagle at 13. ... In shooting 65, DeLaet made seven birdies and one bogey while converting putts totaling an amazing 179 feet. ... The tournament needs only 21,585 fans Sunday to break golf's attendance record. ... With Justin Thomas missing the cut, Matsuyama can jump into the lead in the FedExCup standings with a win Sunday.


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