Tony Finau ties course record as defending champ leads in Houston again


SALT LAKE CITY — If there’s a shot that would have made a strong day into a historic one, Tony Finau knows exactly which one that would be from Friday’s second round at the Texas Children’s Houston Open.

The six-time PGA Tour champion from Rose Park nearly broke the course record on the beloved public links that staged the Houston Open, where Finau won 16 months ago but had to wait as long to defend his title because the event moved from the fall portion of the PGA Tour calendar to the spring.

But after carding a mildly disappointing 69 in Thursday’s opening round, Finau rebounded remarkably, tying a career low with an 8-under-par 62 to take a three-shot lead atop the leaderboard into the weekend at Memorial Park golf course.

After teeing off on No. 10, the 6-foot-4 long driver fired a torrid stretch on his back nine, playing Nos. 3-8 at 6-under that included a chip-in eagle on the par-5, 601-yard eighth, according to the Associated Press.

The West High graduate then had a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 ninth, but just missed before taking par to clinch the sixth time in his career that he’s shot 62 — including last year’s Houston Open.

“I knew I was going to give it a run, I wasn’t going to leave it short, I knew that,” Finau said of the putt that could have given him a career-best 61. “I hit a good putt and it was barely too low. I thought I hit it hard enough for it to stay on the line that it did.”

Finau’s two-day total of 9-under 131 is three shots better than Germany’s Thomas Detry and Argentina’s Alejandro Tosti — who tied for second — and four beyond World Golf No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.

Finau gained more than five strokes from tee-to-green, and nearly four strokes from putting, the first player on the PGA Tour this season with such a one-day improvement.

“I didn’t quite see a 62 out there,” said Sahith Theegala, who plays out of the Houston area, “so that’s one where you take your hat off and shake Tony’s hand; that’s a hell of a round.”

As soon as Finau turned in his scorecard following Thursday’s opening round, the Salt Lake City native ventured to the putting green, where he met his swing coach Boyd Summerhays. Finau has also been testing a new driver, one that gives him more spin and is “a little bit less tip stiff” than his previous one.

“It’s nice to have my coach out here,” he said of Summerhays. “He noticed a little setup change that he mentioned that might help. I’d say it definitely helped today.”

Former BYU golfers Patrick Fishburn and Zac Blair both missed the cut Friday. Blair, who prepped at Fremont High and recently won the Utah Open to restart his game following double shoulder surgery, carded back-to-back 73s to finish at 6-over 151.

Fishburn — the other Fremont High alum in the field — carded a pair of 71s, finished tied for 84th and missing the cut by one stroke at 2-over 142.


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