(Reuters) - Australian Steven Bowditch shot a four-under-par 65 to open up a two-stroke lead after the third round of the AT&T Byron Nelson on Saturday, while Masters champion Jordan Spieth faded.
Local resident Spieth has finished second in all three Texas events on the PGA Tour this year, but his chances of going one better on Sunday diminished as he fell six strokes off the pace.
The 21-year-old shot a 68 and said the goal of his final round would be to give his fans something to cheer about at the soggy TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving.
Par was reduced to 69 at the course after the 14th hole was shortened from a par four to a three due to unplayable conditions on the water-logged fairway.
“Just unfortunate I didn’t have it (today),” Spieth told reporters. “Didn’t hit as many fairways today, led to less greens, and then I didn’t take advantage when I did have opportunities. I was just a little bit off but I held it together for one-under.
“We were playing so slow today. It was tough to focus, because we were waiting so long on every shot.”
Torrential rain that hammered the course for weeks and put the tournament behind schedule finally gave way to fine weather, allowing the field to complete the third round just before darkness.
Bowditch, who has adopted the Dallas-Fort Worth area as his home, said that accurate driving had set up his good score, because preferred lies were allowed in the fairway.
“The big key out here is hitting these fairways so you can get the ball in the hand,” he said after posting a 13-under 195 total.
“It’s obviously wet out there. The greens are surprisingly good so you can make some putts. If you can get in the fairway, you can really attack any pin with these greens being so receptive.
“I feel like I’m driving it pretty good. I had the putter going (the first round). It’s gone a bit cold but hopefully it can start up again tomorrow.’
Bowditch, 3l, who had a stellar amateur career in Australia, won last year’s Texas Open, his lone PGA Tour victory, but has been quiet recently, currently ranked 127th in the world.
Among the quintet two shots behind were Americans Dustin Johnson (62) and Jimmy Walker (67).
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford