It could be called an almost perfect day for Mac O'Grady as he began and ended it with a three-stroke lead in the $500,000 Byron Nelson Golf Classic.

Not only did the publicity-shunning O'Grady decline to discuss his tournament-best efforts with the press, as is his custom, but he did not receive any television time.

Play was halted for 1 hour 40 minutes during today's third round because of lightning in the area. As a result, O'Grady was still on the front nine at the Las Colinas Sports Club when television ended its coverage for the day.

Those present, however, saw O'Grady persevere through post-thunderstorm winds that troubled his closest competitors to register a two-under-par 69 for a 12-under 201 going into Sunday's final round.

Alone in second place at 204 was Payne Stewart, who charged from the pack with a 66.

When O'Grady walked out of the scoring tent next to the 18th green, he broke into a run to escape the gathered press.

"It's amazing how golf can exemplify the underdog," O'Grady told PGA director of information Tom Place, his liaison with the media this week. " . . . As far as my career is concerned, I feel like a little salmon swimming upstream."

O'Grady tried 17 times before clearing the PGA's qualifying school.

Defending champion Craig Stadler at one point caught O'Grady at nine under par, but he slumped in the wind to a 37 on the back nine and five shots back.

Only light rain fell even though lightning crackled overhead, and when play resumed O'Grady ran in a birdie putt at the par-4 ninth. He also birdied Nos. 15 and 16.