Finau and Simpson fire in Phoenix to tee up Sunday scrap

By Sports Desk February 01, 2020

Tony Finau and Webb Simpson lit up the Phoenix Open with a gripping tussle at the top of the leaderboard on moving day.

Both Finau, who played the 16th hole again wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey, and Simpson executed some stunning shots to thrill a raucous Saturday crowd.

It was Finau - enjoying a strong start to the 2020 season - who headed into the final round with a one-shot lead, though, courtesy of his blistering nine-under 62.

The world number 13 was matched stride for stride by Simpson, playing one hole back, until the latter's poor tee shot at the 17th led to a bogey that belatedly opened up a narrow gap.

Up to that point, the pair had delighted the assembled spectators, Finau's most outstanding stretch seeing three birdies and an eagle across five holes from the 12th.

Finau, who turned in 31 and went bogey-free throughout, might have had his second eagle of the day and second in three holes at the 15th, yet an eight-foot putt drifted agonisingly to the right.

"That was probably the most enjoyable round I've ever had on a golf course," he told Sky Sports. "I had so much fun out there."

Simpson bogeyed the seventh as well as the 17th, but he supplied the shot of the day with a hole in one at 12.

Overnight leader JB Holmes was a stroke further back - tied with Hudson Swafford - in third on 14 under, consecutive birdies on the back nine rescuing a title tilt.

Holmes tumbled down the leaderboard at last week's Farmers Insurance Open after a solid first two rounds, and another miserable Saturday appeared to be in store until the recovery to 70.

He fared better than his playing partners at least, Billy Horschel and Wyndham Clark back level in 16th, signing for 73 and 74 respectively.

The duo lay a shot behind Jon Rahm, who lost momentum over the final three holes for the second day running to sit at 10 under.

Rahm can become world number one for the first time with victory this week, but he has plenty of work to do if he is to make up the six-shot deficit to Finau.

Meanwhile, Rickie Fowler's hopes of defending his title are all but over after a two-under 69 - hampered by consecutive bogeys at the 10th and 11th - left him back on five under.

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