AMERICAN Harris English birdied his final hole in fading light to grab the clubhouse lead at the weather-hit WGC-Cadillac Championship 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.
Rory McIlroy had an inconsistent day, starting on the back nine and carding five birdies and four bogeys to sit two shots off the lead after 14.
Despite his inconsistent form, McIlroy was content with how he had played. "I said I'd be happy with anything under par from this round and I'm still on course for that," he said. "I'm happy with the way I played and I'd like to get something in the 60s. I played pretty good. It was tough out there though with the wind and the firm greens with the moisture on top. It was really skidding. So it was hard when we got back out to control the distance.
"You had to guess a little how much the ball would skip forward. I'll get back out in the morning and play the last three and a half holes without as much wind and with better conditions."
Graeme McDowell was a stroke further back on level par after 12 holes when play was ended early, three strokes behind English, the only man in the top 10 to have made it as far as the clubhouse.
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.
"We were pretty much running to the tee on nine." English told reporters. "Jonas (Blixt) had just birdied eight and he said he wanted to hit, and Brendon (De Jonge) and I were very happy with that.
"It was getting really dark, very quickly, but I wanted to finish the hole, because it really changes the way you approach the day, waking up and playing one hole at 8:00 in the morning and then waiting around for three or four hours for your tee time. (It) is tough to do. That way in the morning, we can have a normal day."
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 today.
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.