Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open final round preview: Scottie Scheffler hunting first win

The 25-year-old leads, but no less than 12 players are within three strokes of the lead with 18 holes to play at Memorial Park GC.

Since he graduated to the PGA Tour in late 2019 Scottie Scheffler has proved himself an elite performer.

He opened that first campaign with a top 10 finish, ended the season as the Rookie of the Year, he's been a runner-up in a World Golf Championship event, made his debut for Team USA in the Ryder Cup, has never failed to record a top 20 finish when he's teed it up in a Major Championship, and has parked himself in the World's top 20.

All that is lacking is a win.

He landed two of them in his first and only year on the second tier Korn Ferry Tour, but top level triumph has eluded him.

Heading into the final round of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open he has an excellent opportunity to plug the gap.

Playing on home soil, the Texas resident leads by one on 7-under 203, but he's well aware that the field is stacked behind him.

Jhonattan Vegas, Matthew Wolff, Martin Trainer, Kevin Tway and Kramer Hickok are one blow back on 6-under; another seven players are within just three strokes of the leader who, a day after setting a new course record with a dazzling 62, had to dig deep on Saturday afternoon.

"I kept myself in position," he said. "Things were getting a little iffy there for me for a little bit.

"I felt like I was playing good golf yet I was 1-over through 13 holes and I felt like I was playing a lot better than that. Definitely nice to make a few birdies down the stretch to get things back in the red."

In fact, he made just the two birdies in that spell, but it was enough. Memorial Park has proved itself to be a tough test and plenty struggled with it.

Not the 25-year-old University of Texas grad who said: "I always prefer the harder courses because I feel like I can still take it deep and get myself back in the tournament, which I did this week.

"This golf course is pretty challenging. You see that with the lead being 7 under going into Sunday and it's not because of any crazy conditions out here, it's just a challenging course."

Let's take a closer look at the leader and his nearest contenders.

Scottie Scheffler - leader on 7-under

Seeking that first win in his 64th start and this is his first solo lead on either of the top two circuits. He's twice shared the advantage at this stage, when eventually second on the KFT in 2019 and third at last year's American Express Championship.

This week has seen him finally transfer his superb consistency everywhere to his home state. He's landed 29 top 20s in those 63 starts, but only two in 10 in Texas (and only one in nine in strokeplay).

What does he need on Sunday?

"I think just a good solid round of golf," he said. "There's a lot of good players in the field and the leaderboard's pretty tight together. I'm just going to go out there and do my best and try to put a good round together."

Matthew Wolff - sharing second on 6-under

He's started the 2021/22 season in superb form, opening with T17th at the Fortinet Championship, second at the Shriner's Childrens Open, and fifth last week at the WWT Championship at Maykoba.

The middle of those results is his only experience of being second after 54 holes.

"The course is playing hard," he said. "It's a really long golf course, which suits into my game really well, but at the end of the day you've got to still execute the shots."

Of his form he added: "I fixed my set-up, fixed my swing and feel like I don't have a weakness in my game right now. I feel really good going into tomorrow. Doesn't mean I'm going to win, but I feel good. I'm going to go out, give it my best and have fun."

Jhonattan Vegas - sharing second on 6-under

Another with just one experience of not only being second with 18 holes to play, but also staying there.

He's chasing a fourth PGA Tour win, but one that would mean a lot to him. The first reason? He feels like a local.

"A win would be huge, absolutely huge," he said. "Lots of friends, lots of family around here. The city has embraced me ever since I came from Venezuela. It would be amazing to share it with everyone here in Houston."

The second reason? His first start at this level was in this tournament.

"Oh, my God, probably the biggest memory I have as a Tour player" he said. "I remember just walking into that locker room and seeing all the guys there. Vijay, Freddie, Phil.

"As an 18-year-old just to be there, see those guys, feel that energy. It made me super excited about golf. It would be cool to have a great week and win it here."

He was also one of PlanetSport tipster Jack Kelliher's pre-tournament selections.

Martin Trainer - sharing second on 6-under

The 54-hole leader won the 2019 Puerto Rico Open and has since learned just what a hard school this is: he's made only nine cuts since then and not one of them was a top 30.

"All I can do is just play the best I can," he said. "We'll see what happens tomorrow. Maybe it will be more of the same, maybe will be better, I'll find out. I just want to keep making good swings. I'm certainly hitting it better than I have in the recent past, even today."

Stats and conclusion

We've only got one previous tournament at Memorial Park to look back at.

That first year suggested that a solid all-round game is required. The top six all ranked top 25 for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and Putting.

Currently, three of those in the top six need the putter to warm up a little. Scheffler ranks second and 31st in those two categories, Vegas is fourth and 35th, Hickok third and 37th. Tway (37th and third) and Trainer (24th and fifth) are a little reliant on their putters.

Wolff ranks 11th and sixth.

READ MORE: T20 World Cup final betting preview: New Zealand a tempting price but too much depends on the toss

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