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The 2024 Houston Open is slightly different from its last edition in Fall 2022. The golf course is playing longer, the time of year has given way to warmer temperatures, and even the grass itself has taken a new form. The Bermuda grass has subsided and the wind has picked up, however, and the last man to win at Memorial Park will be the one to beat heading into the weekend.

Tony Finau again tied the course record with a second-round 62 at Memorial Park to stand at 9 under at the halfway point. The 2022 winner fired the exact same score in the exact same round en route to victory that year. He, of course, hopes for a similar conclusion in his final start before the Masters.

"I think my 62 in the fall was actually better," said Finau. "The golf course can yield some birdies here from the rough because the rough's so much shorter. Yeah, I think my 62 in the fall was a little more impressive, just in that you had to hit the fairway. When you're playing Bermuda grass, hitting out of Bermuda rough is just ridiculous. I think when I shot 62, I hit 14 out of 14 fairways and that was quite impressive. But 62 is good anytime of the year, and I'll take the one today."

Finau's margin at the halfway mark looked to be slim for most of the day, but late mistakes from the world No. 1 gave the top man some extra breathing room. After turning in 2 under, Scottie Scheffler found his name on the first page of the leaderboard -- but not before two shots into the water on his back nine. 

Scheffler bounced back from a couple of poor swings with a laser approach into 17 to set up his fifth birdie of the round. He stood in the 18th fairway at 7 under and 2 under on the day. Facing a 6-foot par putt to shoot 68, Scheffler missed and then missed again from even shorter range to officially sign for an even-par 70 and stand at 5 under.

Scheffler's blunder not only doubled the gap between him and Finau from two to four, it also crumbled a record: A day after claiming the longest under-par round streak on the PGA Tour (28), Scheffler's run has come to an end.

"Frustrating lapse in judgment there," said Scheffler. "You never really know what's going to be up there around the cup on 18. Yeah, just hit something and knocked the second one offline. Felt like I hit a good putt on the first one, maybe went just barely through the break, so obviously it was a bit frustrating hitting a good putt and it not going in. Second one I guess just hit a little fast and didn't see a spike mark there."

While Scheffler stumbled late, Finau's round didn't kick into overdrive up until the end. Beginning on the back nine, the 34-year-old turned in 3 under before giving one back on the difficult par-4 1st. He took advantage of the par-5 3rd with his fourth birdie of the day, and just as the wind began to pick up, so did Finau's putter.

Conversions from 27 feet on No. 4, 10 feet on No. 5, 30 feet on No. 6 and 30 feet on No. 7 were just the appetizer. Greenside in two on the par-5 8th, Finau chipped in for eagle to reach 8 under on the day. When his birdie bid from just outside 15 feet ran by on his last, Finau settled for another share of the course record.

"I think the golf course is long," said Finau. "Right now, it's playing really long, and with my added distance over the fall just getting stronger and swinging the club a lot faster, I just think it sets up a lot better for me, honestly, this time of year than it did in the fall."

This performance from Finau is not necessarily surprising given his success at Memorial Park, but suffice to say his game was not where he wanted it to be at the beginning of the week. A strong West Coast swing was riddled with putting woes, and the PGA Tour's transition to Florida saw an uncooperative driver creep into Finau's bag.

With both his accuracy and distance tapering off ever so slightly, at least by his standards, he looked to make a change. Introducing a new shaft on his driver, Finau has felt the benefits immediately.

"Driving is one of the strengths of my game, maybe the strength of my game and I just haven't been hitting the driver as good as I wanted," said Finau. "Spin numbers have been really high and it's been enough time to where after last week I just, I was just kind of fed up. I was like all right, it's time to make a change with the driver. We looked at shafts and I threw this one in and I'd say it was a nice change."

The change with the big stick is not the only modification Finau has made in recent weeks. While his driver returning to its normal level is reassuring, Finau's slight switch with the flat stick is the one to keep an eye on. Employing a more athletic setup with the putter at the Mexico Open, Finau has since gone on to gain strokes on the greens in three straight events. 

Finau's coach, Boyd Summerhays, recommended a slight tweak Thursday evening, and it's paid dividends as he gained nearly four strokes on the greens Friday morning. That could be a sign of what to expect with a green jacket on the line a couple Sundays from now. 

Known earlier in his career as a player to contend in major championships with 13 top 20s across his first 22 major appearances, Finau has fallen off on the big stage as of late. He's without a major top 20 since 2021, but that all could change if these tweaks are as real as they appear to be.