DORAL, Florida, March 6 (Reuters) - American Harris English birdied his final hole in fading light to grab the clubhouse lead at the weather hit WGC-Cadillac Championship on Thursday with most of the field still on the course when play was suspended due to darkness.
English, who returned a three-under 69 on the revamped Blue Monster course was joined at the top of a crowded leaderboard with compatriots Hunter Mahan, Jason Dufner, Patrick Reed and Italian Francesco Molinari also on three-under, though they still have to complete their first rounds.
The redesigned course was put to an early test as a violent storm swept across south Florida drenching the Doral resort causing a two hour, 24 minute weather delay that allowed only six of the 68 players to complete their rounds.
English, who has four top 10 finishes in his last five PGA Tour starts, ended his day in spectacular style rolling a 47-foot birdie putt on the par-three ninth to complete an error free back nine.
Dufner, who got his round off to a blazing start with four successive birdies from the 11th, missed a chance to hold the outright lead when his six-foot par putt on the seventh rolled past the cup to take a bogey with two holes still to play.
Mahan will have four holes to complete, Molinari five and Reed seven when first round action resumes on Friday.
Lurking one shot behind the leaders on two-under is a pack of seven golfers led by Australian world number two Adam Scott, who will have a chance replace Tiger Woods at the top of the rankings if he wins on Sunday.
While Woods struggled with his putter, Scott reeled off seven successive pars to open his round before picking up his first birdie at the eighth then draining in a 12-footer at the ninth.
Woods, who pulled out of the final round of the Honda Classic on Sunday with a sore back, laboured to two-over slumping off the course with a bogey at the 10th to leave him five behind the leaders and eight holes required to complete his round.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury