Martin Laird watched the ball disappear into the cup on the par-3 16th hole and put some vigor into his fist pump.

It certainly wasn't the most exciting moment on golf's most raucous hole. That belonged to Francesco Molinari, who made the first hole-in-one at the 16th on Saturday at the Phoenix Open since Tiger Woods in 1997.

But it was plenty important to Laird.

On the verge of dropping another shot and watching his lead dwindle, Laird followed that 10-foot par putt with a birdie on the 17th and another par save on the 18th to finish off a 3-under 68 and take a three-shot lead into the final round in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Laird, a 32-year-old Scot who lives in Scottsdale, played in the final group Saturday with two 21-year-old rookies, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger. Chasing him Sunday will by Hideki Matsuyama, the 22-year-old from Japan who is No. 18 in the world, and 24-year-old Brooks Koepka.

"This might just be the way it is," Laird said of the increasingly evident youth movement. "When they come out, they're ready to go. They don't need three or four years to get used to the tour life or used to the golf courses."

Laird was at 13-under 200. Matsuyama birdied his last four holes to surge into contention with a 63, a stroke better than Koepka. They were at 203 with Zach Johnson.

Child's play: Ko is No. 1

Though New Zealander Lydia Ko blew a late lead and had to settle for a share of second place at the LPGA Tour's season opener, where she finished a shot behind Na Yeon Choi, the 17-year-old Ko became the youngest player of either gender to reach No. 1 in the world ranking.

Ko, who held a four-shot lead on the front nine of the inaugural Coates Golf Classic in Ocala, Fla., double-bogeyed the 17th hole during a wild closing stretch, but still eclipsed Woods' mark as the youngest to reach the game's apex by nearly four years.

Choi closed with a 4-under-par 68 to finish at 16 under, a stroke ahead of Ko and Jessica Korda. Ko closed with a 71, Korda shot 66.

McIlroy widens lead

Rory McIlroy extended his lead to four shots with a 6-under 66 in the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic in the United Arab Emirates.

With an overall 20-under 196, McIlroy can challenge the tournament winning record of 22 under, set by Stephen Gallacher in 2013 and Thomas Bjorn in 2001.