LOS ANGELES: Peter Malnati was five-under through his first five holes and stayed strong through a weather delay and tough, windy conditions Friday to hold the clubhouse lead when darkness halted play at the US PGA Tour Houston Open.
Malnati, who admitted that he’s been distracted with his wife, Alicia, expecting their first child this month, buckled down to post a seven-under par 65 that gave him a 36-hole total of 10-under 134.
Overnight co-leader Talor Gooch was nine-under through 14 holes when play was halted, while Austrian Sepp Straka was Malnati’s closest pursuer in the clubhouse after a one-under 71 for 136.
Malnati made a blistering start at Golf Club of Houston with birdies at the first and second followed by an eagle at the fourth, where he made a 22-foot putt from the fringe.
He rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt at the fifth before a two-hour weather delay.
When he returned, Malnati added birdies at nine and 15 – where he drained a 24-footer – to top the leaderboard at 10-under.
His seven-under effort came as the average score among the morning starters was almost 73 strokes.
Malnati is in search of a second tour title to go with his 2015 victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Malnati, who is planning to take the next five weeks off, said he had wondered whether he should tee it up in Houston with his wife expecting so soon.
“The last couple weeks I’ve let it be a distraction in that I haven’t really prepared the way I normally would because my head’s back home,” he said.
“This week I was like, ‘dude, this is your last tournament before you become a dad, like do something with it.’
“The best thing you can do for your wife and your kid is to go out and play good,” Malnati added.
Plenty of players were within striking distance on the course. Nick Watney and Lanto Griffin were both eight-under on the back nine.
Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz was in the clubhouse on seven-under 137 after a 67, tied with Mark Hubbard who posted a 69.
Austin Cook, who shared the first-round lead, was two-over through 15 holes but still just four shots off the pace. - AFP