Burns keeps Nelson lead after more Spieth magic, rain looms

MCKINNEY, TEXAS (AP) – Sam Burns is the 54-hole leader — again. Local favourite Jordan Spieth saved the magic for the 18th green — again.

And the AT&T Byron Nelson is in a race to beat the notorious spring weather in Texas — again, this time with plenty of players having at least one eye on next week’s PGA Championship.

Burns shot a three-under 69 for a one-stroke lead over KH Lee, who had a 67 and briefly pulled even before Burns missed by inches matching Spieth’s eagle on 18 and tapped in for birdie.

Spieth, Matt Kuchar and Charl Schwartzel each shot 66 and were three strokes back along with 38-year-old Swedish journeyman Alex Noren, who shot 70 and is looking for his first PGA Tour win in his 104th start.

The players will switch from twosomes back to threesomes going off the first and 10th tees.

Without delays, the tournament famous for interruptions from spring storms — including severe weather that even changed the course’s par total in the middle of the event six years ago — will finish about four hours earlier than normal. The players, of course, will be expecting delays.

“If there are delays, you get pretty used to having to deal with delays,” said Kuchar, among the roughly two dozen PGA qualifiers who made the Nelson cut. “Kind of expecting that tomorrow will be an on-again, off-again day.”

Spieth rolled in another eagle at the par-5 18th, this time a shorter, bending putt from the fringe behind the hole. It just trimmed his deficit after Spieth’s 55-footer up a hill that splits the green gave him a share of the first-round lead.

The roar was the same, though, from the biggest gallery on the new course of his hometown event, the TCP Craig Ranch in McKinney, about 30 miles north of Dallas. It’s the third venue in the past four Nelsons.

“Once it got on the green, it looked good,” Spieth said. “Started the putter raise and I wasn’t positive it was going in because the angle it was coming in at. I wanted to do the no look to the crowd, but, I mean, it was a really cool moment.”

Seamus Power holed out on a 35-foot bunker shot on the par-4 15th for a 67 and was tied with 2017 US Amateur winner Doc Redman at 16 under. Redman shot 69.

Scott Stallings and Harris English were among six at 15-under 201, shooting matching 63s after making the cut on the number at six under. It was a record low for the Nelson on a course that hosted Korn Ferry Tour Championships but looks overmatched against some of the game’s best.

Burns, trying to become first player since Camilo Villegas in 2008 to get his first two PGA Tour victories in consecutive events, had his first bogey of the tournament on number one and another on the sixth hole. He missed an eagle by inches on 18.

The 24-year-old Louisiana native fell short at the Houston Open and the Genesis Invitational at Riviera this season after holding early leads. Burns shared the 36- and 54-hole leads before finally breaking through and winning the Valspar Championship two weeks ago.

Burns held the lead by himself both rounds this week, even after a third round that paled compared to his career-best, 10-under 62 on Friday. Burns and caddy Travis Perkins talked about just that walking toward the 18th green.

“I told him, ‘Man, I didn’t really have my best stuff today and just left a few out there,'” Burns said. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, but it’s hard to follow up what happened yesterday. It’s important to remember that.'”