Palmer holds on

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It was a case of survival at the HP Byron Nelson Championship on Saturday, as high winds led to tough scoring conditions.

It was a case of survival for the leaders at the HP Byron Nelson Championship on Saturday, as high winds and scorching heat led to tough scoring conditions.

It was a case of survival for the leaders at the HP Byron Nelson Championship on Saturday, as high winds and scorching heat led to tough scoring conditions.

Winds gusting up to 35 mph and temperatures in the high thirties degrees celcius made for brutal day at the TPC Four Seasons Resort course in Irving, Texas, which offers little protection from either the wind or the heat.

Even the professionals were at times made to look helpless, and were often left feeling frustrated.

“We’re pretty good players,” Joe Ogilvie told pgatour.com, “but it’s making us look like amateurs.”

“I thought the wind blew hard yesterday,” said Ryuji Imada, “but today was a whole other level of wind.”

Tied for the lead with Sergio Garcia after the second round, it was Ryan Palmer who took the least amount of damage of the leaders on Saturday, carding a three-over-par 73 that leaves him on five under, one shot clear of Garcia heading into the final round.

The Spaniard could only manage a four-over 74, but still lies alone in second place, while India’s Arjun Atwal and Japan’s Ryuji Imada are tied for third one shot back and the all-American trio of Gary Woodland, Matt Kuchar and Joe Ogilvie share a tie for fifth a further shot back. A large pack of chasers lie on one under, only four shots back and not out of it yet, though the tough conditions make a dramatic charge from behind on Sunday somewhat unlikely.

Conditions are expected to be just as tough for the final round, and the only certain winner to emerge on Sunday at this stage will probably be the course. Saturday’s scoring average of 73.338 is the second toughest single-round on Tour this year.

“These guys are good,” said Nick Watney, “But I think the course won today.”

“If the wind blows like this again, who knows who’ll win?” said Jeff Overton, one of the players four back on one under. “You can draw a bogey on every hole the way this course is playing.

“It’s definitely an advantage to have the lead. Not many people will shoot under par the way this place is playing.”

“It got tougher and tougher,” said Palmer. “You never could figure out the gusts; that was the hard part. It would gust and then it would stop, and gust and then stop.”

The closing-five hole stretch, played directly into the wind, seemed to be taking the most prisoners. Palmer and Garcia had actually managed to seperate themselves from the chasing pack till they reached this part of the course.

Palmer bogeyed three of his last five holes, and Garcia bogeyed two, but both players still feel good about their respective positions.

“Whether it’s 1 shot or 5 shots, it’s nice to go into Sunday with that lead,” said Palmer.

“I could not shoot one shot higher than I did today,” Garcia said. “If you look at it that way, and I’m only one shot behind Ryan and I have tomorrow, I think it’s pretty positive.”

Atwal had the best day of the front-runners on Saturday, shooting a three-under 67.

“You’ve got to be really careful,” Atwal said. “You’ve got to wait to hit shots and putts. That’s the secret right now.”

Whoever comes out on top come late Sunday afternoon, one thing is clear.

“It will be another grind tomorrow,” said Palmer.

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