Tony Finau steered a steady course at the blustery Houston Open on Saturday, firing a two-under-par 68 to maintain a four-shot lead heading into the final round.
The 15th-ranked American, seeking a fifth PGA Tour title, rolled in a 21-foot birdie putt at the 8th and an 18-footer at the 14th on the way to a 15 under par total of 195 that put him four in front of England’s Ben Taylor.
Taylor, who regained his Tour card this season via the Korn Ferry developmental tour, had six birdies in his five-under-par 65, rolling in a 21-footer at the 18th to inch closer to Finau.
Saturday brought a dramatic change in the conditions at Memorial Park Golf Course in the wake of the storms that disrupted the second round on Friday.
Finau was among those who managed to complete the second round on Friday, when his impressive 62 gave him a four-shot lead.
Given the gusting winds and cold temperatures that prevailed on Saturday, Finau thought his third round might have been even better.
“That was a really good 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 that 68 I thought was pretty impressive for the conditions.”
Finau hit all 13 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation and said the demanding conditions actually improved his concentration.
“I think it’s easier to play one shot at a time when it’s so tough,” he said. “The wind’s blowing, you really have to focus and hone in on every shot, every putt, so I think I did a good job of that today.”
Taylor was delighted with his “very good round of golf” in the tough conditions.
“There were some shots – we were playing some of them 40 yards longer than the number and I think we did a good job balancing the wind and the cool temperatures, calculating what both of those things were going to do to the ball.”
Taylor said that despite Finau’s big lead, the demanding conditions could open the door for others on Sunday.
“It’s when you get conditions like this, anything can happen, right? There are some low scores out there today that would prove that, so I think we will be in for a good Sunday.”
Taylor was three strokes clear of a trio headlined by England’s former world No 1 Justin Rose, who carded a 66.
Rose was joined on eight under by Wyndham Clark (68) and Tyson Alexander (70).
Rose had to return early to complete his second round when it was “really cold,” but was pleased to at least enjoy some warmer weather as the third round progressed.
The 42-year-old, who has fallen to 75th in the world rankings after a season hindered by back trouble, is in Houston hoping to get a jump on 2023.
“I feel like I need to get my toe down on the accelerator a little bit,” he said. “It’s been not the greatest year and obviously 2022-23 season’s up and running and it’s time to kind of make some points and get amongst it.”
South Africans MJ Daffue (one over), Dylan Frittelli (four over), Dean Burmester (eight over), Erik van Rooyen (11 over) and Garrick Higgo (12 over) all missed the cut.
© Agence France-Presse