A hometown game, rookies’ PGA hopes and more: 3 things to watch for AT&T Byron Nelson final round

Austin Eckroat, Zecheng Dou and Ryan Palmer lead Scottie Scheffler and others by two.

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On 18 Saturday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Scottie Scheffler, shockingly, looked just like the rest of us for once.

The World No. 2 put his tee ball at the par-5 into a bunker and couldn’t get out with his second shot. He wasn’t even going for the green, 250 yards and a large pond away, but his 8-iron launched too low and slammed the lip, caroming back just a few feet to his left.

He switched to a 9-iron, advanced his third 72 yards down the fairway, missed the green with his fourth and navigated a quick chip for a deflating bogey six.

Why was a bogey on one hole on a Saturday, the week before the PGA Championship so deflating?

Scheffler was looking strong to collect his third win of the year heading into the season’s second major thanks to back-to-back rounds of 64 to open his hometown event. But his one-shot lead was quickly closed when he made two bogeys in the first four holes Saturday. Then he seemed to rebound, making three birdies over the next five and giving himself six feet for birdie on the long par-4 12th.

He missed the putt and fell flat for the rest of the round for a 71.

It’s not the end of the world, but instead of tying the lead with a birdie on 18, the bogey sent him two back of the lead at 14 under and out of the final two threesomes for Sunday.

He’s still only two shots back of the trio of leaders, but a win would mean Scheffler enters the PGA Championship as the No. 1 Player in the World for the second straight year. BetMGM still lists him as a +280 favorite to get it done.

Ryan Palmer still searching

Playing in the final group with Scheffler was another Dallas-area resident, Ryan Palmer. Palmer started the third round one back, just one position worse than a year ago when he was the 36-hole co-leader.

He ended up finishing T5 that week and a year later, he’s still in search of his first win since 2019 and first individual title since 2010.

“It’s just playing a solid Saturday round,” Palmer said after a 68 Saturday put him a tie for the lead. “That’s where I’ve hurt myself. I’ve kind of taken steps back playing Saturday. 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.”

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The Nelson last year was Palmer’s last top-10 on Tour and he’s even missed nine of 15 cuts coming into the week this season. Yet, even as he seemed uneven midway through his third round, he rallied with three birdies over his final five, including leaving an eagle putt on the front edge of the cup on 18.

“It’s hard to win, and I’ll tell you what, winning that first one, you never know if it will ever come,” Palmer said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever win again. It’s so hard to win. But I’ve loved my experiences I’ve had when I’ve been in this position.”

Palmer isn’t the only veteran in the hunt. Jason Day, who hasn’t won since 2018, is among the group with Scheffler at 14 under.

Rookies go low

While Palmer seeks a return to the winner’s circle, he’ll be joined in the final group by two players who have never won before. Rookies Austin Eckroat and Zecheng “Marty” Dou posted the two lowest rounds of the day with 63 and 64, respectively, to post 16 under.

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Both rookies are Korn Ferry Tour graduates from a season ago, but neither has recorded all that much success yet this year. Eckroat has made just eight cuts in 18 starts while Dou has only one more in 17 events.

Neither player is currently in the field for the PGA next week at Oak Hill, but the tournament does hold a spot for this week’s winner.

For Dou, a win would also be a hometown victory as he lives just seven minutes from TPC Craig Ranch and plays regularly at this week’s host.

“Cameron[McCormick], my coach, he is in Dallas,” Dou said. “Then the city is major because playing on the Korn Ferry back then it was easy travel everywhere and it has direct flights to China, which I often go back. There is great Chinese food, so everything kind of fits me here. It’s a great city.”

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.