May 19 2012
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
IRVING, Texas — Jason Dufner leads the field in greens hit in regulation, with 44 of 54 hit, and is second in fairways, hitting 31 of 42. Ballstriking is the reason Dufner leads the HP Byron Nelson Championship, inconsistent putting is why he does not lead by more. He has had rounds of 32, 26 and 32 putts, ranking 59th in the field. For the year, Dufner is 117th on the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained-Putting. If he would improve his putting just a little in the final round, you would expect his ballstriking to take him to victory.
Green speed: Ryan Palmer walked off the course a very frustrated golfer, and that's understandable. He took 33 putts to shoot 72. The wind blew hard enough where it affected the line of putts and Palmer struggled with speed the entire day, as several putts were left in the heart of the hole but just short of the cup. The low point came on the 10th hole when he missed from 20 inches. To his credit, Palmer birdied the very next hole and, despite the balky putter, is still in contention.
Veterans: What a wonderful mixture on the leaderboard for the final round. There is definitely a veteran presence with players like J.J. Henry in contention, along with Vijay Singh. On a day when players struggled to make putts from three feet away, Singh finessed his way through 18 holes with just 27 putts. That veteran experience that will be needed in the final round, where patience will be required in windy conditions.
Encore: On Friday, Phil Mickelson hit one of the shots of the year when he sliced a 127-yard 5-wood onto the ninth green. He tried the mirror image of that shot on Saturday, hooking a wedge 20 yards around trees from the left side. Unfortunately, this time Mickelson made bogey instead of birdie.
Game plan: After hitting into the water at the 18th on Thursday, Jason Day vowed he would never hit driver there again. He stuck to that game plan in the third round, hitting iron off the tee and yet the hole still bit him when he three-putted for bogey from 8 feet. Day is one shot off the lead but is 3 over par on the 18th hole.
Bunched field: With players going off both 1 and 10 and in threesomes, there was just a two-hour spread in tee times during the third round. Usually, early tee times get some players on the course before the winds begin but that wasn't the case on Saturday. Everyone played in heavy winds and few low scores were posted. That's the reason there are 20 players within five shots of the lead going into the final round.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and inside the ropes this week at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.