Los Angeles – Lanto Griffin “free-wheeled” his way to a seven-under par 65 on Saturday to seize a one-shot lead in the Houston Open in pursuit of his first PGA Tour title.
Griffin had nine birdies on the par-72 Golf Club of Houston course for an 11-under total of 205.
He was one stroke in front of fellow American Mark Hubbard, whose five birdies included three in a row at 15, 16 and 17 in a three-under 69 for 206.
Second-round leader Peter Malnati struggled to get anything going, settling for a one-over par 73 that dropped him into a tie for third on 207 alongside Cameron Tringale and Beau Hossler, who both shot 68.
Hossler lost the 2018 Houston Open in a playoff against England’s Ian Poulter.
Griffin, a 31-year-old two-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour, was among the players who had to complete the second round on Saturday morning after darkness halted play on Friday.
“Yesterday played really tough,” said Griffin, who was pleased to be two-under par and bogey-free when play stopped on Friday, but returned to play his last five holes in four-over.
That included a double-bogey six at 18.
After that disappointment, he said, “I just kind of felt like I was out here free-wheeling it in (the third) round.
“I felt confident all day,” added Griffin, who birdied three in a row at the third fourth and fifth and then raced up the leaderboard with six birdies on the back nine.
Griffin rolled in a 23-foot birdie at the 10th, then birdied 12, 13, 14 and 15 – where he got up and down for birdie from a greenside bunker.
After a hole-out for birdie from a greenside bunker at 17 he led by two at 12-under.
But he stumbled again at 18, going far right off the tee on the way to a bogey that dropped him to 11-under just as Malnati’s back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13 moved him to 11-under.
But Malnati, seeking a second tour title to go with his 2015 win at the Sanderson Farms Championship, slipped back with bogeys at 16 and 18.
Leading third-round scores on Saturday in the PGA Tour’s Houston Open (USA unless noted, par-72):
205 – Lanto Griffin 66-74-65
206 – Mark Hubbard 68-69-69
207 – Cameron Tringale 68-71-68, Beau Hossler 70-69-68, Peter Malnati 69-65-73
– Brandon Wu 69-70-69, Austin Cook 64-74-70, Scott Harrington 69-67-72,
Carlos Ortiz (MEX) 70-67-71, Sepp Straka (AUT) 65-71-72, Talor Gooch
209 – Denny McCarthy 71-72-66, Wes Roach 69-68-72, Stewart Cink 70-68-71
210 – Chad Campbell 70-72-68, Kramer Hickok 68-73-69
– Harris English 70-72-69, Zhang Xinjun (CHN) 67-76-68, Bud Cauley
72-69-70, Kyle Stanley 70-71-70, Sam Ryder 70-69-72, Ryan Armour