By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
IRVING, Texas -- On Tuesday, Ryan Palmer flew to San Antonio to attend the burial services of his childhood friend, Clay Aderholt, who died last week in an auto accident. He flew back home to the Dallas-Fort Worth area that night, had dinner with his family and woke up Wednesday morning for his 4:30 a.m. wake-up call to make his pro-am tee time, emotionally drained and physically exhausted.
Despite still being "half-asleep" Thursday morning, Palmer hoped to find a sense of normalcy after the tragic turn of events.
Going low in the opening round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship certainly seems quite normal for Palmer now. His 5-under 65 on Thursday marks the third consecutive year the local resident has opened with a hot round at the TPC Four Seasons Resort. He opened with a 65 in 2011 and eventually finished second, losing in a playoff to Keegan Bradley. Last year, he opened with a 64 and finished tied for ninth.
That came on the heels of seven previous years in which Palmer struggled at this course, missing the cut six times.
"It's starting to look better to my eye," Palmer said. "Obviously, it didn't look good at all for seven years. Now I can say I love this golf course."
Thursday's round certainly bodes well for his chances the rest of the week. And if anybody could use an uplifting week, it would be Palmer, who was eating dinner after his opening round of THE PLAYERS Championship last week when he got the news of Aderholt's death, whom he's known since the school days growing up in Amarillo. For the rest of the week, he wore the initials of his close friend on his caps en route to finishing tied for fifth.
He gave his white cap to Clay's widow, Allison and signed it to their 4-year-old son Reid. He gave his black cap to Clay's dad. On Thursday, there were no initials.
"I think it was time for me to get back into the swing of things here," Palmer said. "But we will always remember him and maybe we can honor him even more on Sunday afternoon."
Indeed, nothing would be more appropriate than Palmer winning the HP Byron Nelson. And just like the previous two years, Palmer is letting his caddie James Edmondson select the clubs at this event. It's an unique approach but one that has worked here.
On Thursday, Edmondson wasn't even bothering to give Palmer the yardage to the pin.
"He would say, 'Hit this 8-iron' and I was like, 'How far is it?' Because that helps a little bit," Palmer said as he laughed. "... It seems to work here. It's kind of a strange thing."
It also helped that Palmer rolled in three putts from around 30 feet each. When he made his last one at the ninth hole -- his 18th of the day -- for birdie, Palmer turned to playing partner John Daly and apologized.
"I said, 'I'm sorry. I've got to giggle about that one' because he was banging right and left and I was just making any putt," Palmer said.
If he keeps it up for another three days, Palmer may very well find the winner's circle ... and provide a fitting tribute to Clay Aderholt.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The final pairing of Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia tees off at 2:40 p.m. on Saturday. Here's a closer look at each of them, plus who and what else to watch for this afternoon at TPC Sawgrass.
Webb Simpson (1:30 p.m. ET): The reigning U.S. Open champion seemed to turn the corner at Hilton Head, where he finished second after losing in a playoff. This week, he's third in fairways hit and enters Saturday five back.
Jason Dufner (1:30 p..m ET): He had six birdies and just one bogey in the second round and is one of the best ball-strikers in the game. He also finished sixth here two years ago.
Zach Johnson (1:50 p.m. ET): The last four finishes for Johnson here: T32, T22, T12, T2. See the trend? A couple late bogeys on Friday hurt, but Johnson is still in the mix four back.
Adam Scott (1:50 p.m. ET): Playing for the first time since his Masters victory, Scott is in position to go after his second PLAYERS title (he won here in 2004). He's just four shots back.
Hunter Mahan (2 p.m. ET): After struggling in his last few starts, Mahan has turned it around here, hitting 75 percent of his greens in regulation.
Matt Kuchar (2 p.m. ET): No player has ever won this tournament two years in a row. After a 66 Friday, Kuchar has a chance and enters the third round just four shots back.
Ryan Palmer (2:20 p.m. ET): The Texan is playing with a heavy heart after a longtime friend was killed in a car accident Thursday night. He's wearing the initials "CA" on his hat in honor of him.
Henrik Stenson (2:20 p.m. ET): The 2009 champion is in contention again after making two eagles in the second round (on the par-5 second and ninth holes). When he won here four years ago, he shot a final-round 66.
Lee Westwood (2:30 p.m. ET): The Englishman has finished fourth, fifth and sixth here. All that's missing is a win. He's the only player without a bogey through the first two rounds.
Tiger Woods (2:40 p.m. ET): It's been a dozen years since Woods has won here, but he said all facets of his game are clicking right now and it's showed so far with his best 36-hole start in his history here.
Sergio Garcia (2:40 p.m. ET): Like Woods, Garcia has won here before (in 2008), but he's struggled at times playing alongside the world No. 1 with five his last six rounds in the 70s when the two have been paired.
Ryan Palmer birdies the 13th hole during the first round of THE PLAYERS.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Ryan Palmer has never played particularly well on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Until Thursday, that is.
Palmer fired a 67 in the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship that was his first score in the 60s in 16 rounds on Pete Dye's signature creation. He's tied for fifth, four strokes off the pace set by Roberto Castro, heading into the second round.
"It was nice finally getting around this golf course," said Palmer, who has only made the cut once in seven previous starts. "It's definitely been a thorn in my side since I've been on TOUR. And I don't know what it is, but there are some tee shots that I'm just not well with."
Palmer changed his approach this year, though. He went to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday and then practiced back in Texas earlier this week. He didn't even fly to Ponte Vedra until Wednesday morning -- and he only played nine holes.
"I came in here with no expectations," Palmer said. "I showed up on Wednesday by choice, played at home on Tuesday with some friends and practiced Monday at home. So I came in here with a little less stress."
Palmer, who made five straight birdies on the back nine, which was his first of the day, hit 10 fairways and the same number of greens in regulation. The key? Palmer's solid short game and just 22 putts.
"I hit my irons well today and my short game was there," Palmer said. "I just found out I had 22 putts, so that was always the key. Drove it pretty good on the back nine. On the front nine, I kind of struggled, but that's where my short game came in to save me."
Tiger Woods makes his third straight birdie at the 11th hole on Thursday.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Ryan Palmer has vaulted into a tie for second place and Tiger Woods is also on the move as the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship winds down at TPC Sawgrass on Thursday afternoon.
Palmer, who birdied five straight holes on the back nine to turn in 32, has added two more on the front to move to 6 under. Also finished at that number, which is three strokes off Roberto Castro's torrid pace, are Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson.
Woods, who leads the FedExCup and world rankings, has just made his fourth straight birdie, the streak starting at No. 9 when he tapped in from 22 inches. He added a 6-footer at No. 10, an up-and-down from the greenside bunker at the par-5 11th hole and a 5-footer at No. 12.
In the nine years since he won THE PLAYERS in 2001, Woods has not shot lower than a 67. He has already won three times in 2013.
Padraig Harrington, Webb Simpson and 2008 PLAYERS champ Sergio Garcia are among the group tied at 4 under. Harrington has played 15 holes, Simpson 14 and Garcia 13.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ryan Palmer was the leader in the clubhouse for about 45 minutes on Thursday. Not that anyone knew it, of course. Not with Phil Mickelson stalking what came within one putt of being a magical 59.
"Obviously there are scoreboards everywhere and you see it, but all you can do is shoot a low round today," Palmer said. "You can't worry about a guy leading the golf tournament and going low like that on the first day. It's fitting it's Phil. It will be fun to see how it all pans out."
Particularly after the way Palmer played in the first round.
He was in the first group of the day off the 10th tee and shot 64 -- the same score he posted a year ago when he shared the first-round lead with Jason Dufner. When all was said and done on Thursday, though, Palmer found himself in a five-way tie for second, four shots behind Mickelson.
"It's always nice to play Thursday and get off to a good start," Palmer said. "You can't win on Thursday but you can sure lose it."
Palmer set the tone for the day when he made an 8-footer for birdie at the 10th hole. He then "plodded" his way around the back nine and closed with three birdies in his last four holes to turn in 32. He added three more birdies on the front nine for the 64.
"I drove it great, and I made a few more putts today than I have been the past few weeks," said Palmer, who hit all but one green in regulation. "Great day."
Palmer didn't have many other great days a year ago at TPC Scottsdale, though. He ended up tied for 55th after shooting 72-76-71 in the next three rounds.
Palmer came to Phoenix with positive thoughts, though, after tying for sixth at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
"So hopefully we can make up for what we did last year on the last two rounds," Palmer said. "I think my game is in better shape than it was, so I'm looking forward to playing well."
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Always with a flair for the dramatic, Phil Mickelson rolled in a 17-footer for birdie at the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale to grab a share of the lead at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Mickelson's birdie, which came under the watchful eyes of the always vocal crowd on the famous par 3, put him in a three-way tie with Ryan Palmer and Gary Woodland at 5 under. Mickelson, who is a two-time champion of this event, has played seven holes.
Mickelson, who put a new driver in his bag this week, has hit 4 of 6 fairways and all seven of his greens in regulation. He's also one-putted five times and used just nine total.
Palmer briefly held sole possession of the top spot when he rolled in a 13-foot birdie putt on the first hole, his 10th of the day. Palmer has hit every green in regulation so far in the first round.
The big-hitting Woodland nearly drove the green at the 17th hole, a 313-yard par 4, to pick up his fifth birdie in eight holes.
Tied at 4 under are Matt Every, Charlie Wi and PGA TOUR rookie Nicolas Colsaets. Every just made the turn and birdied Nos. 1 and 2 to make it three in a row while Wi shot 31 on the front nine and Colsaerts shot 4 under on the back.
To preview the 2013 PGA TOUR season, PGATOUR.COM is counting down the Top 100 Players to Watch in 2013. For an archive page with the top 100 players and for an explanation on how the list was compiled, click here .
2013 PREVIEW: Ryan Palmer will be in the final season of the two-year exemption he earned by winning the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii. Not that he figures to be too worried after finishing 58th or better on the money list each of the last three years.
2012 DEFINING MOMENT: The affable Texas A&M grad had a torrid five-tournament stretch in May when he posted four top-10s. The last was particularly hard-fought as Palmer rallied from a first-round 74 with three rounds in the 60s, including a closing 66 that left him owning the clubhouse lead before Dustin Johnson went on to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic. –- Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: Palmer told me at the Sony Open, he had spent the off-season working on his wedge game. He hits the ball a long way and is a very good putter but still wants to become better at approaches between 100-125 yards where he ranked 158th on TOUR. He hits a very consistent, very tight draw. -- Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: Even though he endured his second straight hit in earnings, I'm not worried. He still finished 58th on the money list with $1.5 million. He still mashes it off the tee and putts lights out. And he recorded a career-high 10 top 25s. These numbers reflect his baseline. We're talking about a three-time winner still just inside his prime at 36 years of age. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
SOCIAL MEDIA: Find him on Facebook
2012 QUICK REVIEW
|Regular Season ranking
|Final Playoffs ranking
|Best finishes||T3||FedEx St. Jude Classic|
|By the Numbers
Cuts made: 16
Rounds played: 81
Top-10 finishes: 4
Money List rank: 58th
Driving distance: 15th
Driving accuracy: 144th
Greens in regulation: 94th
Strokes gained-putting: 23rd
Scoring average: 35th
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
What is your prediction for Ryan Palmer in 2013? Fill out the form below and let us know.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
This file updated at 9:04 p.m. with updated tee time information
IRVING, Texas -- Chad Campbell said his backyard in the nearby suburb of Colleyville is about 500 yards from the backyard of his fellow PGA TOUR-playing neighbor, Ryan Palmer.
Palmer put the distance in golf terms.
"Probably a 5-iron away," he said.
Campbell and Palmer first met during their high school days in west Texas -- Campbell was born in Andrews, Palmer in Amarillo. Palmer and Judd Burkett, Campbell's caddie, played on the same high school team at Amarillo High and were next-door neighbors at one point when Palmer first moved to the Metroplex. Palmer's caddie James Edmondson is also part of the close-knit group.
"He and Judd are two of my closest friends out here, for sure," Palmer said.
But the conversation doesn't always turn to golf. Asked if he and Palmer discussed last year's HP Byron Nelson Championship, in which Palmer lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley, Campbell said, "Not too much ... We're definitely friends and talk but not really about anything in particular."
Although Palmer and Campbell live in the same neighborhood, it's mostly at PGA TOUR events where they hang together. "I never see him at home," Palmer said. "It's always on the road."
"I hope it works out because it will be fun with James and Judd and Chad and I," Palmer said after his round. "We're real close and the family and friends we have in town, we could be the popular group tomorrow."
When Jason Dufner grabbed the late late in the day, it appeared Palmer and Campbell would not be together. But because so many players made the 36-hole cut – 79 in all – tournament officials opted to switch the usual twosomes on Saturday to threesomes going off both the first and 10th tees.
That means Campbell and Palmer will be together in the final group along with Dufner. You can expect the hometown fans to cheer on the chasers.
“It’s nice to have that support out there,” Campbell said.
And nice to be paired with a neighbor.