Tony Finau never wavered in the cold, windy conditions.
Finau posted a bogey-free round of 2-under-par 68 and will take a four-stroke lead over Ben Taylor of England into the final round of the 75th Cadence Bank Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course in Houston, Texas.
“The wind made the conditions very difficult, but I’m really happy with the way I played,” said Finau, who claimed two of his four victories on the PGA Tour earlier this year. “I really drove the ball well, which gave me good chances to hit the greens, so I was able to make some relatively easy pars, plus some tough ones, and sneak a couple birdies in there.
“The wind and the overall conditions are supposed to be pretty similar tomorrow, so it was good to get a preview of that today, and I’ll just try to keep playing the way I am. I feel really good about my game right now.
“Winning just breeds confidence. I’ve always felt like I was confident enough to win, but you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to make it happen. Having done that back-to-back (in July), I think it just breeds confidence more into my belief and to my game.”
Finau, who took sole possession of the lead with a brilliant 62 in round two, hit all 14 green in regulation and 16-of-18 green in regulation while collecting 16 pars, while making his birdies on the eighth and 14th holes as he posted a 54-hole total of 15-under 195.
Taylor, who played college golf at LSU, made three birdies on each nine and had his only bogey when he missed a five-foot par putt at No. 10 in a round of 65 that was the best of the day. He capped his round with a 20-foot birdie putt on the last hole.
“Stealing one there on the last hole was the highlight of the round,” said Taylor, whose only pro victory came in the 2018 Club Colombia Championship on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour. “We knew we had to stay very patient You might be able to make a birdie or two, but you know there could be a hiccup around the corner.
“I made the one bogey, which was on the 10th and that was actually one of the easiest shots, it was in the middle of the fairway. I certainly stole a couple out there and I hit some great shots and we capitalized when we could and it was nice to steal one of the last two for a 65.”
Justin Rose of England birdied four of the first eight holes on his way to a 67 and is seven shots behind in a tie for third with Wyndham Clark, who posted a second straight 68, and rookie Tyson Alexander, who had two birdies and two bogeys in a 70.
Said Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion: “Listen, it’s all in Tony’s hands. You can see everybody stacking 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.”
Gary Woodland, the 2019 U.S. Open champion, made a six-foot eagle putt on the eighth hole in a second straight 67 and is eight back in a tie for sixth with Joel Dahmen, who parred the last 12 holes in a bogey-free 68.
Scott Piercy carded a 67 and is nine strokes down in a tie for eighth with Russell Knox of Scotland, Aaron Rai of England and Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, who all shot 70, James Hahn of Alameda and Cal, who totaled 71, and Patrick Rodgers of Stanford and Alex Noren of Sweden, who both struggled to 73s.
Second-ranked Scottie Scheffler, who could have regained the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings from Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland by winning or finishing second this week, saw those chances virtually disappear by shooting 71 and is tied for 25th.
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