SAN ANTONIO -- Playing great golf and making birdies at the TPC San Antonio Oaks Course is never an easy task, but the extreme weather conditions on Saturday made the third round of the Valero Texas Open more of a test of survival and a challenge for success than normal.
Those conditions have also created a crowded leaderboard. About a third of the field still has a real chance to win.
On Saturday, Kevin Chappell birdied three of his final five holes to finish at 8-under-par 208 and seize a one-shot lead over Brendan Grace of South Africa and John Huh in cool and gusty weather that made the Oaks Course, already one of the toughest on tour, even more difficult than usual.
Chappell has never won on the PGA Tour but has six second-place finishes, including this event in 2011. He managed a 1-under 71, one of just 12 under-par rounds from the 76 golfers who made the cut.
It would have been easy for Chappell to succumb to the course and conditions, especially after he had three bogeys and a double bogey on the front nine and turned with a 38. He righted the ship with four straight pars before his exemplary five-hole finish.
"Obviously, the golf course hit me in the chin real hard early and I just couldn't find a rhythm, couldn't get a rhythm," Chappell explained. "To make the turn at only 2 over after some of the places I hit it gave me the confidence that if I could get to the 14th tee at 2 over par or better I could post a score. I really took advantage of the finish there."
Grace, who was the leader here after a first-round 66, shot a 70. He called Saturday's playing conditions brutal and said he just trying to stay alive.
"I just didn't give up any shots out there," Grace said. "It's tough. You have to be on top of your game. What I did well today was the same as Thursday -- I managed to hit the fairways, managed to hit the greens and I actually putted a lot better than I thought I could in these winds. Some putts you think it's in and they just scoot by."
Huh came in at 71 and gained three strokes on his final two holes with an eagle out of the bunker on the par-4 17th and a six-foot birdie putt on the closing hole.
"It was tough day," Huh concurred. "I was able to manage, stay patient and tried to give myself good looks. With this win, you just have to control the spin, you know. This golf course really gets all of your game. If I can manage and hit good shots, I'll be fine."
Seven players finished two strokes behind Chappell, including second-round leaders Bud Cauley (74) and Tony Finau (74), Ryan Palmer (68), Carl Pettersson of Sweden (71), Martin Laird of Scotland (71), Kevin Tway (72) and Cameron Smith of Australia (73).
Palmer, an Abilene, Texas, native who played golf at Texas A&M, posted the round of the day with a 68 in the swirling north winds that made the course play completely opposite than it did in the first two rounds.
"I had some great breaks on the first four or five holes on errant tee shots when I was able to get pars out of them," Palmer said. "I've had experience here before with the winds, so I brought my mental game and my patience and it paid off.
"I just stayed calm and relaxed and made some great putts coming in. I just played a really solid round of golf and didn't force any issues."
In all, 26 players are within five strokes of the lead heading into the final round, for which weather conditions are expected to mitigate. That should lead to quite a shootout over the final 18 holes.
"I don't know what the weather has got in store for us tomorrow, but if it's a good day it's going to probably take a couple under (to win)," Grace said. "I think you're going to get some guys coming from behind and shooting a low number."
NOTES: Since 2000, seven of the 17 second-round leaders/co-leaders of the Valero Texas Open have gone on to win, including two recent past champions, Steven Bowditch (2014) and Jimmy Walker (2015). ... This year, 12 second-round leaders/co-leaders have held on for the win. The most recent to do it was Sergio Garcia at the Masters. ... New Zealander Steven Alker, who was within a shot of the lead after a 67 in the first round on Thursday, had a nightmare round in the gusting winds on Saturday, shooting an 85. His scorecard included one birdie, five bogeys and two others -- a triple bogey on the par-4 first hole (his round started on No. 10) and a nine on the par-3 third on which he hit three balls into the pond short of the green.