Tony Finau wants to end his big year in a big way and he took a step on Thursday by biding his time and delivering late birdies for a 5-under 65 for a share of the lead in the Houston Open.
Finau used a 60-foot birdie putt on the par-3 second hole, his 11th of the round, to start a stretch of four birdies in five holes.
He was tied for the lead with bogey-free Aaron Wise and Alex Noren of Sweden, who could use a big week in Houston to nail down a spot in the top 50 in the world as he tries to get a Masters invitation.
Tyson Alexander also was at 5-under and drove into the left rough when the first round was suspended because of darkness. Alexander chose not to finish his round and will finish the 18th on Friday morning before starting his second round.
The large group at 66 included Sanderson Farms winner Mackenzie Hughes of Canada and Keith Mitchell, who was poised to take the lead until his second shot into the par-5 16th went into the water and led to bogey.
Finau won consecutive starts this summer in Minnesota and Detroit for his first season of multiple wins. He missed the cut last week in Mayakoba and wasn't faring too well at Memorial Park, except he knew the course was demanding from tee-to-green.
"I knew the golf course - it's a tough golf course to play," Finau said. "You have to drive it in the fairway and your work's not done. It's hard to hit the greens. You know if you miss the green, it's hard to get up-and-down, so I was just patient with myself.
"I made a couple bombs, I think that kind of opened it up."
The biggest one was on No.2, and with a breeze at his back, he had no trouble adding another birdie on the par-5 third. He hit a wedge to four feet on No.5 and then holed a birdie putt from 12 feet on the next hole.
Finau also finished with a bang, rolling in a 35-foot putt on the par-3 ninth.
His big summer has Finau at No.15 in the world rankings, courtesy of his big run through late July and early August. The tour has two tournaments left this year before resuming the season at Kapalua the first week of January.
"The season that I've had this past season was very nice, but I want to go out in a good way and I want to finish the year strong," Finau said. "And I think that's what I'm looking for this week."
Former world No.1 Jason Day shot a 1-under 69 to be tied 38th. He is the sole Australian in the field.