IRVING _ Winds gusted to 39 mph on Saturday, sending golf balls wildly off course and players off the leaderboard.
But the kid was still hanging on.
On a day when accuracy was conceptual, and scores were relative, Colleyville’s Ryan Palmer dropped three strokes to par and took the third-round lead at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Palmer’s 73 at the TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas brought him to 5-under 205, one stroke better than Sergio Garcia, and two clear of Arjun Atwal and Ryuji Imada.
The spotlilght, though wobbly, remained focused on Dallas amateur Jordan Spieth. The 17-year-old kept a firm grip on his dream by shooting 72. He enters Sunday’s final round tied for eighth, only four strokes back.
Last year, Spieth was tied for seventh through 54 holes, but trailed leader Jason Day by six strokes.
Spieth missed his Dallas Jesuit commencement ceremony at SMU. His family decided not to make a late rush, fearing it would be a disruption for the other graduates.
On Saturday, Spieth took a crash course in golf survival.
``Standing on the range, hitting into a 30-mile-an-hour wind, I was just kinda laughing to myself, saying, `You make pars out here, it’s going to be an awesome day,’’ he said. ``I stepped up and birdied 1 and 2, and it was like, `alright, who knows what will happen?
``Then reality kinda kicked in. I caught a couple of bad breaks and within those bad breaks made a couple of amateur decisions. That definitely hurt, but I learned from them.’’
Spieth’s large gallery roared when his wedge shot set up a 10-foot birdie on No. 1. On the par-3 No. 2, with the pin tucked on the left side and battling a strong crosswind, Spieth almost holed it. After tapping in, he was 2 under, and tied for third.
But his drive on No. 4 landed near the face of the right fairway bunker, and he could only blast out. His third shot rolled over the green, and then he chipped to 8 feet and missed the bogey putt.
He bogeyed 9, birdied 10 and then suffered double-bogey on 11, the drivable par-4, after hitting into the water. A birdie on 14 was followed by bogeys on 15 and 16, but then birdied the par-3 17th for a positive finish.
``Extremely hard,’’ Spieth said. ``I told my caddie (Kramer Hickok) every single hole, `make sure you’re telling me to stay patient on every shot.’ I just needed to be reassured, just trying to settle down and not make loose swings. So I struggled. I made four or five bad swings where I wasn’t ready to hit it, and it cost my five shots.’’
If you just watched scores, the TPC looked like a U.S. Open at Winged Foot. The average score was 73.3, the second highest round on Tour this season.
Only eight of the 74 players shot in the 60s _ Atwal (67), Matt Kuchar (68), Gary Woodland (68), defending champion Jason Day (69), Brian Gay (69), Hunter Haas (69), Dustin Johnson (69) and Vijay Singh (69). And nobody carded a bogey-free round.
``These guys are good, they’re going to play well, but I think the course won today,’’ said Nick Watney, who shot 73, including a triple-bogey on 15, to finish among the group with Spieth.
Fifty-three players shot over par, and most had tire tracks on their backs from the closing four holes.
Palmer was even through 13, but then bogeyed 14, 16 and 18.
``Bad, hard day, that’s for sure,’’ Palmer said. ``But I swung good, hit it good, and never missed anything I should have hit, so just a hard round of golf.’’
Garcia, paired with Palmer, also bogeyed 16 and 18 to post 74. He won the 2004 Nelson in a playoff after finishing 10 under.
``It was definitely hard,’’ said Garcia, looking for his first win since the 2008 Players Championship. ``At the same time I have to say I got nothing out of my round. I could not shoot one shot higher than I did today. So if you look at it that way, I’m only one shot behind Ryan.’’