Tony Finau leads into final round of Houston Open

HOUSTON (AP) — Tony Finau had his highest score of the week and it felt like his best on a cold wind Saturday. He kept bogeys off his card, had a 2-under 68 and maintained his four-shot lead before going into the final round of the Houston Open.

Finau had such control at Memorial Park that he hit every fairway and missed just two greens in a day when the average score was 71.2 and only one of the three par 5s played to an average score over par.

Most satisfying was the 10-foot par putt he made on the 18th hole after a rare miss into the bunker. The bogey-free round kept his distance from England’s Ben Taylor and allowed Finau to tie the 54-hole tournament record.

He was at 15 under 195, the same score Curtis Strange had in 1980.

“That was a really good lap,” said Finau. “I don’t think the result says that, but I think I played better than yesterday. You know, yesterday I shot 62. But today I found that 68 quite impressive for the conditions.”

The only change was who was chasing him.

Finau had a four-shot lead when the second round ended Saturday morning due to storm delays, leading Patrick Rodgers and Alex Noren. Both had a 73 to drop out.

Taylor delivered a 65, the lowest score of round three, including a 20-foot birdie putt on the last hole. “Stealing one there was the highlight of the round,” Taylor said.

The Englishman will be in the final group on Sunday with Finau and Justin Rose, who had a 66 and was in third place with Wyndham Clark (68) and Tyson Alexander (70) – five strokes behind.

“Listen, it’s all in Tony’s hands,” Rose said. “You can see everyone piling up behind him – 9 under, 8 under, 7 under, 6 under. If Tony doesn’t have a great day tomorrow, there are 20 guys who can win the tournament.”

Finau’s confidence has never been so high. He won back-to-back starts in Minnesota and Detroit that summer for the first multiple-win season of his career. He felt like he shook off the rust in Mayakoba last week. He has his game under control.

Rose, on the other hand, speaks from experience.

All handed the HSBC Champions to Dustin Johnson in Shanghai in 2017. He had a six-stroke lead and was world No. 1. And then he started missing everything, small mistakes were magnified and Rose rallied from eight shots down to win.

“If Tony goes ahead and plays well tomorrow, there’s a guy or two who can go out and probably play a great round of golf to pop the question and put pressure on him,” Rose said.

And the north wind could make everyone uncomfortable. Such was the case on Saturday as players struggled with its peninsula green on the par-5 16th. It was the third-easiest hole of the first two rounds with a full field. For the third round and the players good enough to make the cut, it was the seventh hardest.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler took a double bogey which ended his hopes. He hoped to at least be able to stay close by. A double bogey on the 16th and a bogey on the 18th sent him to a 71, giving him a tie in 25th place and no chance of a win to regain the world No. 1 ranking.


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