Zecheng Dou of China and Austin Eckroat have a lot of golf fans wondering who these guys are.
Dou (pictured) and Eckroat, neither having won with an PGA Tour in their careers, are tied for the lead with Ryan Palmer heading to the final round of the 70th AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas.
The 24-year-old Eckroat birdied five of the first six holes and seven of his first nine to kick-start an eight-under-par 63, while Dou birdied four of the last six holes to cap a bogey-free 64, and the veteran Palmer birdied three of the last five holes for a 68 as they all finished at 16-under-par 197.
“It just didn’t really faze me like it normally would,” said Eckroat, who scored the winning point to give Oklahoma State the 2018 NCAA Championship. “I’m just really happy how I handled that, being close to lead. It’s a lot of job security. A lot of things come with winning a PGA Tour, and I’m just hoping to get that done.
“You put yourself in this position and you kind of feel like a win is the only way that it’s a successful week. But I just want to go out tomorrow and try to play the best I can and see what happens.”
Said Dou, 26, who has nine professional victories including six in China and three on the Korn Ferry Tour: “It’s going to be big for sure. There is a whole lot more golf to play, so I’m in a good position like this, creating more chances, and that’s all I’m thinking. I think the nerves are the same thing to me as me playing on the Korn Ferry Tour. You get into it and you’re going to be nervous no matter what.”
Palmer, 46, probably is the favorite among the three leaders since he has four victories on the PGA Tour and five as a pro.
However, the last time he won was in the 2019 Zurich Classic of New Orleans with teammate Jon Rahm, and his previous individual victory came in the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
“It was a patient day,” said Palmer, who is playing before his hometown since he grew up in West Texas and lives nearby in the Dallas area. “I knew I was going to be one or two back, worst case. It’s going to be nice to be in the final group again, and we’ll give it our all.
“I’ve kind of taken steps back playing on Saturdays recently. I haven’t played as well on Saturday. Today was a huge step, getting a nice solid round, shooting three-under, and keeping me up there by the leaderboard and now I’m tied for the lead. Huge step today for sure.
Second-ranked Scottie Scheffler, who led after two rounds following two straight 64s, struggled to a 71 after making three birdies late in the front nine and is two strokes behind in a tie for fourth with Vincent Norrman of Sweden, who had five birdies in seven holes in the middle of a bogey-free 65, Jason Day of Australia, who made three birdies on each nine in 66, and Si Woo Kim of South Korea, who carded a bogey-free 68.
Patton Kizzire posted a bogey-free 64 and is three shots behind in a tie for eighth with Tyrrell Hatton of England, who birdied four of the last five holes in a bogey-free 65, Sung Kang of South Korea, who had seven birdies in a 66, and Ricky Werenski, who birdied the final hole for a second straight 68.
K.H. Lee of South Korea, the two-time defending champion in the AT&T Byron Nelson, holed out for an eagle from 55 yards on the sixth hole in a second straight 68, after opening with 70, and is tied for 58th.
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