By JOHN NICHOLSON
AP Sports Writer
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Morning frost gave way to gusting wind Thursday in the WM Phoenix Open, leading to tricky scoring conditions at TPC Scottsdale.
“I actually felt the best swing I made of the day was the par-3 seventh, and hit it 20 yards over the green,” top-ranked Rory McIlroy said after an opening 2-over 73 that left him seven strokes behind.
The frost delayed the start for 1 hour, 50 minutes, with the wind picking up from the northeast and gusting to 25 mph. The temperature climbed from the low 40s in the morning to the high 60s in the afternoon as golf’s biggest party kicked off Super Bowl week in the Valley of the Sun.
“Tricky day,” McIlroy said. “Hopefully, the wind keeps up this afternoon for the guys out there, and we’ll get back at it tomorrow.”
Canadian friends Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin shared the lead at 5-under 66 when play was suspended because of darkness with the entire afternoon wave unable to finish.
Xander Schauffele opened with a 67. Jason Day and Jim Herman also were 4 under, with Day finishing 10 holes and Herman 13.
Taylor played the back nine in 6-under 30 after making the turn at 1 over. The two-time PGA Tour winner lives in the area and often practices at TPC Scottsdale.
“I don’t see a whole lot of northeast wind here,” Taylor said. “It’s definitely the tougher of the winds, especially coming down the stretch. All those holes are playing a lot longer than typical. I’ve seen a lot of wind conditions, but this was one of the toughest stretches I’ve played out here.”
Hadwin also lives in area.
“You had to be a lot more patient than you normally do around this place,” Hadwin said. “You couldn’t really chase birdies like we typically do out here.”
He parred the last four holes to miss out on bragging rights over Taylor.
“I’m really disappointed I didn’t get to 6 under because I saw Nick up there, and I wanted to hold it over him tonight,” Hadwin said.
Local favorite Jon Rahm eagled the par-5 13th to get to 3 under as play was suspended. The former Arizona State star from Spain opened the year with consecutive victories in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and The American Express.
Defending champion Scottie Scheffler was 1 under through 11 holes.
Jordan Spieth shot 71, making four birdies and four bogeys. Justin Thomas was 1 over after 12 holes.
McIlroy is trying to make it three wins in a row on the PGA Tour after taking the Tour Championship in August and The CJ Cup in October. He also won two weeks ago in Dubai on the European tour in his first start of the year.
McIlroy pulled off an amazing recovery shot on the par-4 second hole after a wild tee shot left him up against a metal fence, hitting a 127-yard shot to the center of the green to set up a two-putt par.
“I sort of got lucky because the wind was hard off the left and I needed to hit that hard draw against the wind,” McIlroy said. “It was the only way to stop it on that green.”
McIlroy’s playing partners also struggled, with Collin Morikawa also shooting 73 and two-time Phoenix Open winner Hideki Matsuyama following at 74.
DIVOTS: In response to Saudi-funded LIV Golf, the tournament is an elevated PGA Tour event with a purse of $20 million and a winner’s share of $3.6 million. … The field has eight of the top 10 in the world. Missing are Cameron Smith, suspended because he signed with LIV Golf, and Will Zalatoris.
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