Palmer, Campbell in final Nelson group with Dufner
IRVING, Texas (AP) — Ryan Palmer and Chad Campbell are longtime friends and neighbors close to home on the PGA Tour this weekend.
They get to play together in the third round at the Byron Nelson Championship, in the final group Saturday with surprising leader Jason Dufner.
"It's nice because we can keep each other loose just talking, about things other than golf," Palmer said. "We are both wishing each other to play good, obviously we want to beat each other too. But it's nice to play with somebody you know, and it's a walk in the park with them."
Dufner birdied four of his last five holes Friday, wrapping up his 4-under 66 with a 37-foot chip-in on the last hole. His 7-under 133 total put him a stroke ahead of a group of six players that includes 2011 Nelson runner-up Palmer and Campbell, the duo who live in nearby Colleyville.
Matt Kuchar, the world's fifth-ranked player who won The Players Championship last week, shot a 68 and is also in that group a stroke back of the lead. The others at 6 under are Pat Perez (67), Dickey Pride (68) and Marc Leishman (69).
Standing over his ball in a swale behind the 18th green, Dufner would have been content with a par and a spot in that group that had been tied for the lead.
Instead, Dufner had the lead to himself after his second long chip-in down the stretch.
"No, that wasn't in the thought process," Dufner said. "Pretty lucky for it to go in, but that's part of golf. Sometimes you get those breaks."
Dufner got married the week after his first PGA Tour victory at New Orleans last month, and returned to play last week.
He has the 36-hole lead for the fourth time this season, including the Masters, and the seventh time in his career. The experience of having won before can provide a different mindset while leading at the halfway point again.
"Maybe a little bit," he said. "I'm confident with my game and happy with where my game is right now."
When Dufner got the lead, it appeared that the potential third-round pairing of Palmer and Campbell would get split.
But with 79 players making the cut at 2 over or better, threesomes instead of the traditional twosomes will be used for the weekend rounds. That put Ryan and Campbell back together with Dufner.
Even with their proximity to the TPC at Four Seasons course, neither Palmer nor Campbell has had overwhelming success there.
Before Palmer's runner-up finish in a playoff last year, he missed six of seven cuts at the Nelson and tied for 73rd the other. Campbell tied for 40th last year after missing the cut three consecutive years.
"Our backyards are about 500 yards from each other," Campbell said. "We have both played this course so many times. We're definitely friends and talk, but not really about anything in particular."
After his opening bogey-free 64, Palmer had two bogeys his first five holes Friday. He hit his tee shot at the 528-yard No. 3 hole into the water and three-putted from 48 feet at the par 3 No. 5.
His round ended on a good note, with a birdie at No. 18 after his approach that set up a 10-foot birdie.
"Kind of sluggish starting off ... but I survived," Palmer said. "To birdie that last hole is an awesome feeling going into (Saturday)."
Defending champion Keegan Bradley (68), who last summer won the PGA Championship three months after becoming a first-time winner in the Nelson playoff against Palmer, was two strokes behind the leaders along with Ryuji Imada (68) and Charley Hoffman (69).
Kuchar recovered from a miserable early stretch when he had two bogeys and a double bogey in a four-hole span.
After a birdie at No. 10 to start his second round, Kuchar had a bogey at the 455-yard 12th when his approach from the rough landed in a bunker. His approach at No. 14 went in the water, leading to a double bogey before he again wasn't able to get up-and-down out of a greenside bunker at the par-4 15th.
But his approach at the 546-yard 16th was inside of 5 feet. That was the first of his five birdies without another bogey over his final 12 holes.
"I got on the wrong side of things," Kuchar said. "Par 5, took advantage of that. So I was pleased that I was able to hang in there and bounce back."
Kuchar still has chance to become the first PGA Tour player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win in consecutive weeks.
The only other top 10 player in the field is Phil Mickelson, who had a fitting finish in a round of 69 with a double bogey after his tee shot at No. 18 went in the water and his approach after the drop went over the green.
"I hit it terrible today, there was no other way around it," Mickelson said. "I've just got some mechanical issues where I was not striking the ball very solid. I was able to hit decent shots on the backside to make birdies and make a run, but that last hole stunk."
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