HOUSTON — Tony Finau had his top score of the week, and he felt the best in Saturday’s chilly wind. He kept the bogeys off the cards, shot a 2-under 68 and took a 4-shot lead into the final round of the Houston Open.
Finau was in such control at Memorial Park that he hit every tee shot for an average score of 71.2 on a day where he missed just two greens and only one of the three par-5s scored above average.
Most satisfying was the 10-foot putt he made on the 18th hole that barely missed the putt. The bogey-free round kept him clear of England’s Ben Taylor and gave him the 54-hole tournament record.
He was 15-under 195, the same mark as Curtis Strang in 1980.
“That was a great round,” Finau said. “I think the score doesn’t say that, but I think I played better than yesterday. You know, yesterday I shot 62. But today I thought that 68 was amazing for the conditions.”
The only change was who was chasing him.
By the end of the second round on Saturday morning, Finnau had a 4-shot lead over Patrick Rogers and Alex Noren due to a wave delay. Both had 73 to get out of the tournament.
Taylor posted a third-round low score of 65, including a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole. “That steal was the highlight of the round,” Taylor said.
The Englishman will play Finn and Justin Rose in the final round on Sunday. They had 66 and are tied for third – 5 shots back – with Wyndham Clarke (68) and Tyson Alexander (70).
“Listen, it’s all in Tony’s hands,” Rose said. “You can see everybody stacking up behind him – 9 under, 8 under, 7 under, 6 under. If Tony doesn’t have a good day tomorrow, there are 20 guys who can win the tournament.”
Finau’s confidence has never been higher. He had back-to-back wins this summer in Minnesota and Detroit in his first multi-win seasons. Mayakoba felt as though he had shaken off the rust last week. He dominated the game.
But Rose speaks from experience.
In the year In 2017 in Shanghai, everyone was handing the HSBC championships to Dustin Johnson. He had a 6-stroke lead and was 1 in the world. And then he started to lose everything, small mistakes added up and Rose rallied behind 8 shots to win.
“If Tony goes ahead and plays well tomorrow, there are one or two guys who probably have good golf to ask the question and put pressure on him,” Rose said.
And the north wind can make everyone feel uncomfortable. That was the case on Saturday as players battled it out on the par-5 16th peninsula green. It was the third easiest hole of the opening two rounds with a full field. The seventh was the hardest for the third round and the players were doing well.
Masters champion Scotty Scheffler picked up a double bogey, ending his hopes. At least he hoped to stay close. A double bogey at the 16th and a bogey at the 18th sent him to a 71, tied for 25th and no chance of winning to regain the world No. 1 ranking.