Laird leads Phoenix by three, Molinari ace triggers frenzy

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 31, 2015 7:37 PM

(Reuters) - Scotsman Martin Laird shot a three-under-par 68 to hold off some charging youngsters on Saturday and carry a three-stroke lead into the final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Laird sank a pair of 10-foot, par-saving putts at the 16th and 18th holes to finish 54 holes in 13-under 200 at TPC Scottsdale.

Tied for second at 203 were Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, who birdied the last four holes in a bogey-free 63, American Brooks Koepka, who fired six birdies for 30 on the back nine in his 64, and former Masters champion Zach Johnson, who shot a 67.

Three players were tied at nine-under, including amateur Jon Rahm of Spain and Arizona State University. Playing on a sponsor's exemption, Rahm shot a 66 for a 204 total that he shared with Ryan Palmer (68) and Justin Thomas (69).

Another stroke back was a large group that included Italy's Francesco Molinari, who had the stadium crowd of over 15,000 surrounding the par-three 16th in a frenzy with a hole-in-one.

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Molinari's ace helped him to a seven-under 64 and triggered a wild celebration in which fans threw their beer cans to virtually cover the slopes leading up to the green.

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Gene Cherry)