Australia’s Marc Leishman and Americans Russell Henley and Talor Gooch shared the clubhouse lead on Thursday when darkness halted the opening round of the rain-hit Houston Open.
The start of play was delayed by two-and-a-half hours as almost an inch of rain fell at Memorial Park, leaving much of the field still on the course at sunset.
Leishman, Henley and Gooch fired five-under-par 65s while American Luke List eagled the par-four 14th from 179 yards and stood on five-under with three holes remaining.
Leishman, making his first Houston start since 2013, seeks his third top-five showing in four starts after sharing fourth at Napa and third at Las Vegas.
“For about six months I feel like I’ve been playing OK, just not getting anything out of it,” Leishman said. “I worked on my wedge game so everything inside 150. And I started making putts. Really that’s the difference.
“It can be a crazy game. It can get you down and you can play really well and not have a good score and play mediocre golf and have a really good score. You have to try and not let that get to you. I think a fresh season, a new start was pretty good for me.”
Henley, ranked 60th, seeks his fourth career PGA title and first since a 2017 Houston victory. Gooch, ranked 51st, is trying to win his first PGA crown.
World No 35 Leishman is chasing a seventh career US PGA title and second of the year after joining countryman Cameron Smith to win the pairs event at New Orleans.
“I’m a six-time tour winner – happy – but there are still some missing parts in there,” Leishman said. “I’d love to win a Major and hopefully I can just keep playing the way I’m playing and have the luck of the draw, rub of the green on those big weeks.
“I’ve had a good career. I’m hoping I’ve still got plenty of years left in me.”
The 38-year-old Aussie shared fifth at this year’s Masters, his sixth top-10 major finish. His best major showing was a runner-up effort at the 2015 Open, losing in a four-hole playoff to American Zach Johnson.
Leishman holed a 43-foot birdie putt at the first hole, added another birdie at the sixth and closed the front nine with back-to-back birdies.
“I got off to a good start. That first hole’s a brute and to make a long putt for birdie there was a nice way to start the day,” Leishman said.
Leishman also birdied 14 and 15 before missing the 18th green and closing with a bogey.
“My irons were really on and gave myself a lot of chances and made the putts. It was pretty stress-free,” said Leishman. “Disappointing to bogey the last and not have a bogey-free round, but on a course like this I’m pretty happy with just making one.”
Henley birdied the par-five third and par-four fifth and holed a 32-foot birdie putt at the par-five eighth. He added a 19-foot birdie putt at 13 and followed a bogey at 14 with 15-foot birdie putts at 15 and 17.
“I made some nice putts,” Henley said. “I was hitting my lines on the greens and felt pretty good with my driver.”
Gooch birdied four of the first eight holes, his longest birdie putt a 32-footer at the fifth hole, and answered bogeys at 12 and 13 with birdies at 15, 16 and 17.
“With how I was hitting it today, it was just a matter of how many putts I was going to get to drop,” Gooch said. “I happened to make three in a row, so that’s always nice, always helpful.”
© Agence France-Presse