Daily Wrap-up: WM Phoenix Open, Thursday

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February 02, 2012
Staff and wire reports

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ryan Palmer was back in his comfort zone with his trusty old putter model in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, shooting a 7-under 64 to take the lead Thursday after a partially completed first round.

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"I pulled it out of the garage and was putting in my living room, then went outside in the backyard on my putting green, and I knew it was time to bring it back out," the three-time TOUR winner said.

Holing seven birdie putts from 10-15 feet, Palmer was rewarded for switching back to the Odyssey putter after missing the cuts in his previous starts this year in the Sony Open in Hawaii and Humana Challenge.

"I used the exact same putter the last two years, and of course had two of the best years of my career," he said. "But toward the end of the year last year, around the BMW, I just got frustrated with not making anything, so I thought I'd try something different, put a similar style head in play and actually had some success.

"But my first two weeks out here I could tell I wasn't comfortable when I'd get over the short putts."

Webb Simpson was a stroke back on the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale.

"It's one of those courses that just fits your eye well," said Simpson, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 6.

The start of the round was delayed an hour because of frost, and play was suspended because of darkness at 6:05 p.m. with 42 players unable to finish. Last year, frost and frozen greens delayed play nine hours during the week, forcing a Monday finish.

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Palmer had 27 putts and hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation. He birdied the par-5 15th after his drive landed in the middle of the fairway and rolled left into the water, and saved par on the short par-4 17th after also driving into the water.

"I guess you could say I left a couple out there, but it was a great day for sure," Palmer said.

He was 8 under after a birdie on No. 6, but had his lone bogey on No. 7, then finished the round with pars in Nos. 8 and 9.

Jarrod Lyle, Harrison Frazar, Derek Lamely, Kevin Na and Chez Reavie were two strokes behind at 66, and Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner and Spencer Levin also were 5 under. Watson and Levin had three holes left. Dufner, a playoff loser last year, had five holes remaining.

Kyle Stanley opened with a 69, four days after a devastating loss in the Farmers Insurance Open. On Sunday at Torrey Pines, he made a triple-bogey 8 on the final hole of regulation and lost to Brandt Snedeker in a playoff.

"It was just good to be out there," Stanley said. "It was almost therapeutic."

He received warm cheers and words of encouragement from the fans.

"I'm kind of overwhelmed by it," Stanley said.

Shot of the Day: Fowler

Rickie Fowler holes a 68-yard birdie approach shot on the par-5 15th hole.

Phil Mickelson had 24 putts in a 68, and defending champion Mark Wilson, coming off a victory two weeks ago in the Humana Challenge, was 1 under with two holes left.

"I feel so good with the putter," said Mickelson, who won the tournament in 1996 and 2005. "It's been a little while. It's been a few years since the guys out here have seen me putt like this."

Mickleson played alongside Dustin Johnson and the green-clad Rickie Fowler in a morning group that attracted the largest gallery in the estimated crowd of 77,053.

Fowler holed out from 68 yards for birdie on the par-5 15th after hitting his second shot into the water in front of the green.

"As soon as I hit it, I knew it was how I wanted to hit it," Fowler said. "It skipped behind the hole, and I could see it spinning right down the stick."

About the leader
• Ryan Palmer owns the clubhouse lead after a 7-under 64. Palmer completed his round moments before play was suspended for the night shortly after 6 p.m. Palmer hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation. He was 8-under through 15 holes before stumbling with his only bogey of the day at No. 7. He missed birdie putts of 15 feet 11 inches on No. 8 and 15 feet 2 inches on No. 9. closing with two pars.
• If Palmers lead holds up through the first round it will mark the first time in his PGA TOUR career he has held the outright lead after the first 18 holes. Palmer has shared the first-round lead four times previously, the most recent being at the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii, site of the third of his three TOUR victories. This is Palmers 229th career start on TOUR.
• Palmer is making his third start in 2012. He missed the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii and the Humana Challenge.
• This is his sixth start in this tournament. His best finish was a T2 in 2006, when he posted a 64 in the third round to move into contention. He was one stroke back of leader (and eventual winner) J.B. Holmes.

Fowler shot a 69, and Johnson had a 68.

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