IRVING, Texas -- For a guy trying to play boring golf, journeyman Tom Gillis diverted from the script at the conclusion of Saturday’s third round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
The 44-year-old Gillis, seeking his first victory on the PGA Tour, holed a 46-foot bunker shot for birdie on the finishing hole to cap off a 3-under 67. He’ll begin final-round play in third place at 11 under, two strokes back of leader Keegan Bradley.
"I’m not in a position to take a lot of risks and shoot at every pin," Gillis said. "I’m trying to hit the fairway and the center of the green. Just make it very, very boring would be my way of going about it tomorrow."
From 134 yards, Gillis bunkered his approach to 18, short and right of the green. But his play in the sand this week has been superb, going 6-for-6 in saves, including the hole-out to end his round.
In previous Nelsons, Gillis said he never felt comfortable on No. 18 or, for that matter, on the TPC Four Seasons course. But he said he likes the hole, and the course, likes them a lot more now.
"The more I play it, the more I realize there is a lot of strategy involved," Gillis said.
Gillis is reunited this week with his old coach of five years, and that has calmed him. So has a change to his old set of irons.
Tougher conditions: With the wind picking up and TPC drying out, birdies became harder to find Saturday. Less than half the field broke par, and there were no bogey-free rounds Saturday. Jerry Kelly, Scott Piercy, Jason Day, Morgan Hoffmann and Sang-Moon Bae recorded the day’s low scores, 4-under 66.
Risky play: Apparently most of the field considers going for the green with their tee shots on No. 11 too much risk and not enough reward.
The intention behind constructing a new tee on the opposite side of the water hazard during redesign of TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas was that more players would choose to gamble on going for the green on the short par-4 that played at 321 yards Saturday.
Through three rounds, there is yet to be an eagle on No. 11 and only four tee shots have found the green. Two were hit by Gary Woodland in Rounds 1 and 2. Erik Compton and Peter Tomasulo found the putting surface Friday. All four shots were rewarded with birdies.
Woodland chose to play safe Saturday and made a par.
The risk for the aggressive tee shot at No. 11 is four well-positioned bunkers and a pond that extends along the left side of the fairway and green. Ten tee shots this week found the water.
Those who go for the green are averaging 3.56 on the hole, compared to 3.92 for those choosing to lay up.
More grip, less rip: Are we seeing a more mature golf game this week from John Daly?
Coming in to the HP Byron Nelson Championship, Daly had made the cut in only two of seven tour events this season. In three rounds at TPC, Daly has played solid golf without the occasional blowup hole that has cost him so many times in the past. Through 54 holes, Daly has made nothing worse than a bogey, and only six of those. Add in 39 pars and nine birdies, and Daly is 3 under, tied for 32nd, going into Sunday.
On Saturday, Daly shot an even-par 70 despite hitting only five of 14 fairways.
Remembering a friend: Ken Venturi, who died Friday, was remembered as a friend of Byron Nelson and the tournament.
"Ken Venturi was a great friend of the tournament and he will be dearly missed," said Mike McKinley, 2013 tournament chairman. "Ken was the first of the young golfers that Byron mentored and he remained very close to Byron. The world of golf has lost another of its great gentlemen."
Byron’s widow, Peggy Nelson, said the news of Venturi’s death was sad and unexpected. She recalled her late husband’s face lighting up when Venturi called.
"If Byron could have, he would have adopted him," she said.
CBS began its Saturday tournament telecast with a tribute to Venturi.
"A lot of people don’t realize the things that Ken Venturi gave back to the game and gave back to people, and he was like the great man this tournament is named after, Byron Nelson," said Lance Barrow of CBS Sports.
Nelson leader Bradley recalled a helpful tip concerning club takeaway that Byron Nelson passed along to Venturi, who passed it along to Bradley’s coach, Jim McLean.
Speaking of Venturi, Bradley said he was "an icon of the game, both playing and in the booth, and a great guy. He will be missed by everybody."
Notes: Jimmy Walker of Boerne, Texas, enters tournaments for the long haul. Walker, who shot even-par 70 on Saturday, has survived 23 consecutive cuts, the top active streak on tour. ... Marc Leishman, tied for 16th at 5 under, needs to move up at least six spots Sunday to extend his streak of consecutive top-10 finishes to four. ... Dallas’ 19-year-old Jordan Spieth hit only nine greens and made six bogeys in a third-round 73 that left him at even par for the tournament, tied for 63rd.