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Scottie Scheffler in position to defend, Jon Rahm hot in pursuit and more from moving day at the 2023 WM Phoenix Open

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. – Scottie Scheffler is right where he wants to be.

The defending WM Phoenix Open champion didn’t have his best stuff on Saturday, but pieced together a 3-under 68 at TPC Scottsdale to build a two-stroke lead over Spain’s Jon Rahm and Canada’s Nick Taylor. In doing so, he became the first defending champion to hold the 54-hole lead.

No defending champion at TPC Scottsdale has held the 54-hole lead before Scheffler.

“I felt like I’ve been on the outside looking in on Sundays. To be in the final group with a two-shot lead, I believe, is definitely a position I want to be in,” he said.

Scheffler, 26, who was tied for the 36-hole lead, took advantage of a good bounce off a cactus on his tee shot at the second hole and drained a 47-foot birdie putt. His lead grew to as many as three shots, but the 13th, which played as the easiest hole of the day was anything but for Scheffler. His errant drive left at the par 5 cost him his lone bogey of the day and just the second by any of the 66 players to make the cut. He temporarily lost the lead to Xander Schauffele, but Scheffler bounced back at the difficult 14th hole, striking a 5-iron to 4 feet to set up a birdie that righted the ship. He called it the best shot of his round and caddied Ted Scott agreed. “That shot was sick,” he said.

“I didn’t hit it as well today as I hoped to. But still got around in 3 under. Kept the ball in play for the most part. Just kept plugging along. Only one bogey was good today,” Scheffler said.

Scheffler is seeking to be the first to defend his title here since Hideki Matsuyama in 2017 (before that Johnny Miller did so in 1974-75) and his first win since the Masters last April. A victory on Sunday would have an added bonus, as he would also reclaim the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking provided that current World No. 1 Rory Mcilroy finishes outside of solo third (he’s currently T-28).



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