Ryan Palmer settled for a three-way tie for first place Saturday after a 35-foot eagle putt failed to drop in on his final hole of the day at the AT&T Byron Nelson at McKinney, Texas.
Palmer shot 3-under 68 and shares the lead with Austin Eckroat and China’s Zecheng Dou at 16-under 197. Eckroat shot a career-best 63 in the third round while Dou carded a 64 at TPC Craig Ranch.
Scottie Scheffler, Sweden’s Vincent Norman, Australia’s Jason Day and South Korea’s Si Woo Kim are tied for fourth place, two shots behind the leaders.
Scheffler held the second-round lead after consecutive 64s but never got on track Saturday, shooting even-par 71. He had all three of his birdies on the front nine and his third bogey of the day came on 18 and prevented him from being one shot back.
“I struggled with kind of everything today,” Scheffler said. “My swing didn’t feel good, I wasn’t making a lot of putts. That’s how you end up with even par.”
Palmer carded six birdies and three bogeys and will be taking aim at his fifth PGA Tour victory on Sunday. He birdied three of the last five holes, including No. 18, when the golf gods didn’t smile down on him.
Palmer’s eagle putt was right at the hole and galloping along but slowed as it approached the cup. It was as if the brakes were applied as the ball stopped just short of falling in, leaving Palmer in disbelief on the green as he put the top part of the club handle in his mouth.
“That ball was as center as you can get,” Palmer said afterward. “… It was half a roll for sure. I thought it was dropping for sure, but it was fun.”
More fun for Palmer was his quality of play. He has experienced third-round troubles in the recent past and was thankful for the sudden turnaround.
“I’ve kind of taken steps back playing Saturday,” Palmer said. “I haven’t played as well on Saturday. Today was a huge step, getting a nice solid round, shooting 3-under, and keeping me up there by the leaderboard and now I’m tied for the lead. Huge step today for sure.”
Getting to Saturday has also been a problem for the 46-year-old. Palmer missed four straight cuts before tying for 35th in the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this month. Overall, he has missed nine cuts this season.
Neither Eckroat or Dou have won a tour title during their respective careers.
Eckroat, 24, was superb throughout his round, with 10 birdies and one double bogey.
He birdied five of the first six holes before running into trouble with the double bogey. His second shot on the par-3 seventh went into the rough to the left of the green and he later two-putted.
Eckroat rebounded with birdies on Nos. 8 and 9, and added three birdies on the back nine.
It marks the first time Eckroat will be in the lead entering the final round.
“You put yourself in this position and you kind of feel like a win is the only way that it’s a successful week,” Eckroat said. “But just go out tomorrow and try to play the best I can and see what happens.”
This is the third straight tournament in which Eckroat made the cut after missing eight of the previous nine.
Dou, 26, made seven birdies during a bogey-free round. He had four birdies over the last six holes.
Dou goes by “Marty,” a nickname given to him by a kindergarten teacher in Vancouver, B.C.
“Like she was like, ‘Do you want the name Marty?’ Like Chinese name was too hard, yeah,” Dou told reporters.
He’s hoping he’ll next be called winner after his third-round showing has placed him in position.
“Played really solid today,” Dou said. “Hit really good drives. Left myself more opportunities than yesterday and rolled a couple, and once in a while you make one. That’s how confidence is gained.”
Dou, who has missed eight cuts this season, has never finished in the Top 10 in 44 previous PGA Tour starts.
Norman shot 65, Day carded a 66 and Kim had a 68 as part of the tie for fourth.
Tied for eighth at three shots off the lead were Patton Kizzire (64 on Saturday), England’s Tyrrell Hatton (65), South Korea’s Sung Kang (66) and Richy Werenski (68).
–Field Level Media