Following a second-round 69, Ryan Palmer talks about his play in THE PLAYERS Championship 2013 with Amanda Balionis from PGATOUR.COM.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- One of the first things Ryan Palmer did was write the letters C and A on the front his black cap, right over the T in TaylorMade.
Palmer then went out and did what he does best to honor his friend, Clay Aderholt, who was killed in an automobile accident in Texas on Thursday evening. He played another solid round of golf at TPC Sawgrass and is among the leaders of THE PLAYERS Championship at 8 under after a 69 in the second round.
Not until he tapped in for a final par at the 18th hole did Palmer allow himself a brief moment of emotion. He was remarkably composed, though, as he spoke with reporters after the round and talked about his childhood friend.
Palmer said he'd known Aderholt "all the way back to as long as I can remember." Aderholt was a pretty decent golfer -- "We had some good games growing up," Palmer recalled -- but he really excelled as Amarillo High's quarterback, as well as on the baseball team.
In fact, Aderholt was the co-winner of the 1995 Randy Keller Fighting Heart Scholarship given annually to a senior baseball player who holds the same kind of passion for the game that Keller did. In an odd twist of fate, Keller was also killed in a traffic accident in 1992 two months shy of his senior season in high school.
Palmer's financial advisor, who lives in the same neighborhood as Aderholt, called his friend on Thursday night to deliver the tragic news. Holt was killed between 6 and 7 p.m. CT and Palmer felt helpless as he struggled to come to grips with the loss long-distance.
Phone calls to Palmer's wife Jennifer and several other friends helped. So did a conversation with his sports psychologist Fran Pirozzolo.
"He had some good things to say," Palmer said. "One of the things to do is just to come out and play golf. When I had the bogeys it didn't even seem like it was there. But I stayed strong, felt good about my game. All I can do is just kind of stay here, play golf, and keep him in my prayers."
Palmer said he never really considered withdrawing from THE PLAYERS Championship. His friends encouraged him to play. After all, Aderholt's wife and two young children -- "That's what's really heartbreaking," Palmer said -- had plenty of support back home and he would be there soon enough. His memories would sustain him until he returned home.
"That's what I took with me today, and I felt really calm," Palmer said. "I kind of just took things slow. ... (Pirozzolo) made some good points, just kind of being real calm and slow out there and just not getting too emotional. And I had some rough holes, but I stayed strong, stayed positive and kept in the present, and that got me through."
Until this week, when Palmer decided to prepare at home and not fly to Ponte Vedra until Wednesday morning, he had never played particularly well at TPC Sawgrass. In seven previous PLAYERS starts, in fact, the three-time PGA TOUR champ had never broken 70 and made just one cut.
Now Palmer has two straight rounds in the 60s and will play the weekend for the second time. He'll have a chance to win, too, starting the third round three strokes off the pace set by Sergio Garcia.
Friday's round of 3 under included a pair of eagles in a three-hole span. The first came on the ninth hole where he made a 30-footer from the fringe while the second came at No. 11 where he holed a bunker shot from 40 feet.
"I was expecting a 10-footer but I couldn't have caught it any better," Palmer said. "You've got to have things like that happen to be in contention and to win, so I've had some things go my way. If we keep playing well and get a few more breaks on the weekend, who knows, we'll see what happens."
In the past, Palmer says he's struggled at the Stadium Course. This week, though, he's found 10 of 14 fairways in each of the first two rounds which has allowed him to be more aggressive hitting to Pete Dye's vexing greens. The putter's been cooperative, too -- just 22 on Thursday and 25 in the second round.
Friday's round wasn't flawless by any means. Two eagles and four birdies, though, will nicely offset those five pesky bogeys. And what had transpired over the last 18 hours, Palmer's performance was very impressive.
"My mind was good today all things considered, but it's great to feel good to be in contention here at this tournament where I've struggled," he said. "I am excited about the weekend."