One of the more intriguing factors heading into the Waste Management Phoenix Open was its stout field, featuring five of the top 10 players in the world. But after 18 holes, it's a familiar name that might have slipped through the cracks atop the leader board. That being the No. 65 player in the world, Bill Haas, who carded a bogey-free seven-under 64 to take a two-shot lead at TPC Scottsdale.
Haas, 35, opened his round on the back nine and got right to work, making three birdies and an eagle to get to five under through seven holes. He added two more birdies en route to his lowest round since last August, coming a week after making his first cut in his last four starts.
"I've been struggling, so just kind of practicing, working hard and trying to figure something out," Haas said to explain his impressive play. "The putter was hot the first nine holes. Got lucky, I kind of hit a bad putt on two, but it hit the back of the cup and went in.
"So, one of those days where they went in for me, so hopefully it will be one of those weeks."
This week marks Haas' first start at TPC Scottsdale since 2015, when he finished 76th. Prior to that, the Wake Forest alum had plenty of success in the desert, having registered two top-10s in his career at the Waste Management.
"I like playing in the desert. I love the turf, I love the grass, the greens are going to get firmer and firmer. I think it will put an emphasis on the driver. If you can drive it in the fairway, I still think you'll see guys shoot good scores. But if the wind stays down like this in perfect conditions, it's fun golf."
Rickie Fowler is just two off the lead after carding a five-under 66 that featured four birdies, an eagle and just one bogey, which came at the par-3 16th. The four-time tour winner has made a habit of positioning himself near the top of the leader board each year at the Phoenix Open, but has been unable to convert his consistent play in Arizona it into a victory.
"After the first couple years here I just figured it was a matter of time before I was the last one standing on Sunday," Fowler said. "We have given ourselves some pretty good chances. Losing to Hideki two years ago in the playoff … it's just a matter of time. I know I can win here, and sometimes you just got to be in the right place at the right time or not get a bad kick on 17, but we're going to get one."
Fowler has now played his last nine rounds at TPC Scottsdale in 34 under par.
Also at five under are Chris Kirk, Billy Horschel, Chesson Hadley and Bryson DeChambeau, who is making his debut at the Waste Management this week, and wasted no time praising the Stadium vibe at the par-3 16th, where he two-putted for par, ending a streak of three consecutive birdies on his front nine.
"What's funny is I was a little more nervous than I was at the Masters when I was an amateur, I can tell you that, that's for sure" DeChambeau said. "It's just different. You're going to get booed or they're going to cheer for you. That's it. There's not going to be middle ground."
Five players are at four under, including Jon Rahm, who bounced back after struggling on the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he played his final 36 holes in eight over par. Despite this being just his third start at TPC Scottsdale, the former Arizona State standout clearly knows his way around the course, having finished T-5 and T-16 in his first two appearances.
"You do feel an advantage. I live here, so I get the pleasure to sleep in my own bed, which is always better to rest," the Spaniard said. "The fans, the atmosphere I think it's just pro-ASU players, it it's just a great feeling."
Rahm was joined in a tie for seventh by Bubba Watson, Brian Gay, Vaughn Taylor and Gary Woodland. Justin Thomas is among a group one behind them after posting a three-under 68. Back-to-back defending champion Hideki Matsuyama is at two under, while Jordan Spieth sits eight off the lead at one over.