BC-GLF—Byron Nelson, 2nd Ld-Writethru,954
Dufner carries lead into final round of Nelson
AP Photo TXMO104, TXMO108, TXMO102, TXMO103, TXMO101
Eds: New approach. With AP Photos.
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer
IRVING, Texas (AP) — Nine players had or shared the lead during the third round of the Byron Nelson Championship.
Yet when play ended Saturday, Jason Dufner was the one alone at the top of the leaderboard for the second day in a row.
Unfazed by more breezy conditions, Dufner shot a 1-under 69 for an 8-under 202 total. He had a one-stroke lead over Jason Day, J.J. Henry and Dicky Pride.
“Similar conditions as (Friday), so probably helped me a little bit, just being comfortable with the wind and how hard it was blowing,” Dufner said. “Good ball striking, hit a lot of greens. ... Didn’t feel like I was scrambling too much, trying to save pars or out of position, anything like that.”
Three weeks after getting his first PGA Tour victory at New Orleans, and two weeks after getting married, Dufner is already trying to win again.
With a forecast for wind again at 20 mph with higher gusts Sunday, and the experience of having won recently, Dufner is comfortable in his position.
Matt Kuchar, who won The Players Championship last weekend, was in a group of eight players four shots back after a 72 with an up-and-down back nine.
Kuchar, the fifth-ranked player in the world, still has a chance to become the first PGA Tour player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win in consecutive weeks.
Dufner’s only bogey came at the 528-yard par-4 third hole, when he knew right away that his drive wasn’t a good one. He immediately dropped his club to watch as the ball flew into a bunker on the left side of the fairway, opposite the water on the right where he hit his tee shot the previous day.
“A little bit of carryover from (Friday), not trying to let those things happen, but occasionally they creep in your mind,” he said. “That bunker is almost as bad as being in the water, so (Sunday) maybe I’ll think of that and play more aggressive and try to hit the shot a little better.”
Dufner, who birdied four of his last five holes Friday, got the lost stroke back Saturday with a 10-foot birdie putt at No. 6. He had pars the rest of the way except for the 14-foot birdie at the par-4 14th.
Day’s only bogey came when he missed a putt of less than 2 feet at No. 18. The ball rimmed around the cup and rolled back toward him, costing him a share of the lead with a round of 67.
“I just hit it too hard through the break,” said Day, the 2010 Nelson champ who finished fifth last year in his only other appearance on the TPC at Four Seasons courses. “One day that hole will pay me back, and hopefully it’s (Sunday).”
There were 20 players within five strokes of the lead. And 10th-ranked Phil Mickelson was among of group of seven more players only one more back.
Henry had three birdies on the back nine after two bogeys on the easier front nine in a round of 67. Pride, who has been playing professionally for 20 years, got his only PGA Tour victory in 1994.
“I threw my caddie in the air trying to figure out the wind,” Pride said jokingly after his round of 69. “Grass, I couldn’t see.”
Vijay Singh, a 34-time PGA Tour winner whose last victory was in 2008, had a 66 Saturday. He was two strokes back after an eagle-birdie-bogey finish. After his 38-foot eagle putt at the par-5 16th, he made a 5-foot birdie at No. 17 but missed a par putt of the same distance on the last hole.
“I’ve been looking forward to this position,” he said. “My game has been coming around, but there wasn’t any signs of scoring and this s the first day where I kind of went out there and scored well.”
PGA rookie Jonas Blixt from Sweden (67) and Marc Leishman (71) were tied for sixth at 205.
Ryan Palmer, the 2011 Nelson runner-up after losing in a playoff, shot a 72 in the final group. He was with Kuchar and defending Nelson champion Keegan Bradley (71) in that group of eight at 2006.
Kuchar was 8 under and leading after consecutive birdies to start his back nine, with a 32-foot putt at No. 10 and hitting his approach at No. 11 inside 3 feet.
After hitting his tee shot at No. 12 into a fairway bunker, he had a chance to save par but missed a 6-foot putt. His tee shot at the 180-yard 13th stopped 4 inches from the pin for a tap-in birdie that got him back to 8 under and the lead, but that didn’t last long.
An errant drive on No. 14 led to a drop, then he had to punch back into the fairway before his approach to the back fringe of the green and a double bogey. His approach out of the rough at the next hole found a greenside bunker and he missed a 7-footer for par.
Bradley was only one stroke off the lead when his drive at No. 11 was way right. His shot from there went over the green and trickled into the water, leading to a triple bogey that took him to 4 under, where he finished.
Mickelson had five birdies and four bogeys for a round of 69. He failed to make up any ground even after holing a 42-foot chip shot at No. 18, where he finished with double bogey Friday.
“It was a fun way to end the day,” he said. “I had a lot of opportunities to get right back in the mix and made four or five mistakes there, sloppy bogeys.”