Texas Open: Finau and Cauley Share 36-Hole Lead

Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

At the midway point of the Valero Texas Open, two players are tied at the top.

Tony Finau and Bud Cauley may have used different strategies to navigate the first 36 holes of the Valero Texas Open, but they will enter Saturday’s third round tied at the top at eight-under. Finau rocketed into first place by way of a second round 65, while Cauley was just one stroke worse, signing for a bogey-free 66.

Cauley had an early tee time on Friday and was on his game from the start of the round, rolling in three straight birdies between the second and fourth holes at TPC San Antonio to gain momentum. From there, he was rock-solid, making three more birdies on the back to reach six-under for the day. After requiring 32 putts to get through Thursday’s first round, he used just 22 in the second.

Finau hasn’t been quite as good with the putter, but his ball striking skills have compensated for that. At the midway point, the Utahan leads the field in strokes gained: approach-the-green, masking the inefficiencies of his normally subpar short game. His day was highlighted by a 103-yard eagle hole-out on the 11th hole, along with eight birdies. He even had a chance to break the course record by birdieing the 18th, but he instead finished his round with a bogey, falling two strokes shy of history.

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Cauley and Finau will play in the final group on Saturday, but they won’t be the only ones with momentum. Aussie Cameron Smith was also feeling it on Friday, firing a spectacular 65 to tie Finau for the low round of the day. The 23-year-old circled six birdies and an eagle — the only blemish on his scorecard was an unfortunate bogey on the par 5 14th. He, too, will play in Saturday’s final group.

At seven-under, Smith is currently tied with three other players. That group includes 30-year-old American Kevin Chappell, known far and wide as one of the best winless players on the PGA Tour. A former runner-up at the Texas Open, he made five birdies and a bogey to finish with a 68, his second consecutive sub-70 score. A couple more rounds like that, and he’ll be winless no more — it’s just a matter of avoiding the big numbers.

Also in that tie for third are 51-year-old Bob Estes and former University of Alabama standout and current sponsor exemption darling Robby Shelton. Thus, Saturday’s final groups will feature a compelling mix of old and young, ascendent and accomplished.

Three players — John Huh, Kevin Tway and Jonathan Randolph — are tied for seventh at six-under. Then, there’s a sizable group at five-under that features a few notable players: former Valero Texas Open winners Jimmy Walker and Martin Laird, talented South African Branden Grace and breakout candidates Ollie Schniederjans and Sung Kang. Veterans Aaron Baddeley and Carl Pettersson are also residing comfortably at that five-under number, so it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be in the pole position after the third round.

Furthermore, as we saw on Friday, one superb round is all it takes to propel a player to the top of the leaderboard around these parts. Other notable players to make the cut include Brendan Steele, Ryan Palmer, Brooks Koepka, Graeme McDowell and defending champion Charley Hoffman. Will any of these names be able to make a weekend charge?

Of course, not everyone will be around for the weekend. Notables to miss the cut include Patrick Reed, Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson, Luke Donald, Billy Horschel and Ian Poulter. The missed cut officially brings an end to Poulter’s bid to regain his PGA Tour card via major medical exemption — the veteran will now have to rely on invitations from sponsors to get his starts.

No matter what happens in the third round, you won’t want to miss it. Check out the tee times for Saturday.

Next: 4 Veteran Players Who Need a Major

Who will be on top after the third round of the Valero Texas Open? Let us know what you think in the comments, and keep it here at Pro Golf Now for more PGA Tour updates.