By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Mini-camps are over and training camp doesn't start until July 25. So New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton decided to sneak in a quick vacation at The Greenbrier, an iconic resort located in the scenic West Virginia mountains.
Did we mention he planned to caddy for his good friend Ryan Palmer in The Greenbrier Classic, too? So what started as a little R&R quickly became much more -- and Payton wouldn't have it any other way.
"After two days I've quickly realized, this isn't a vacation,” Payton said. “… I take the opportunity very seriously in that this is how he makes a living. It's interesting to be on the course and to watch these guys, the athletes, the consistency, the way they hit the ball, it's pretty amazing.”
Payton has learned quickly that a caddy's job is more than the classic "show up, keep up and shut up." Particularly when dodging raindrops ike the two have done during the first three days this week.
"I certainly have a great appreciation for the job that these caddies have," Payton said. "All of a sudden it starts raining a little bit, you're one hand short, you've got umbrellas going, towels going everywhere."
Payton and Palmer, who is a three-time PGA TOUR champ, have been friends for quite awhile. Palmer comes to see the Saints play when he can, the two meet up at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and they play as often as their schedules admit.
"It's going to be fun to get the advice from a hard-nosed football coach," Palmer said. ".. I’m looking forward to having a lot of fun and try to win this thing."
Payton sees parallels between a TOUR player and a quarterback in terms of visualizing a round or the progress of a game. He's been very struck by the discipline involved and the hard, even "tedious" work that has made Palmer such a successful pro.
"I think the challenge, and you take it for granted, but 18 holes, however many shots, however many days in a row, the ability to have 100 percent of your focus on that shot," Payton said. "I know when we jump in golf carts and drive around a course and shoot in the 90s, we might have great focus on eight shots total, but to do that and force yourself to have that same discipline I think is probably a big challenge for these guys."
One of Palmer's buddies, D.J. Nelson, who caddies for Chad Campbell, texted him and told the TOUR pro to make sure Payton knows where caddy dining is. Ditto for the Quality Inn where many of the caddies are staying.
"They've talked to him on the range, some players and some guys as well," Palmer said. "You need to have somebody like that amongst us that we look up to and watch and follow in a sport we love in the game of football. It's pretty cool to hear the mindset of one of the great coaches in the game, Super Bowl winning coach. It's a lot of fun to hear -- to have a coach like that is pretty cool."
So does Payton plan to return the favor? Will Palmer be on the field at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, donning a headset at one of the Saints' games?
"Well, that's if he's allowing me to club his round tomorrow," Payton said. "He can carry the headset cord."
"I'm trying to teach him the yardage right now," Palmer said.
Ryan Palmer will be joining our weekly PGA TOUR Insiders Google+ Hangout today at 2:30 p.m. ET, live from The Greenbrier Classic. Palmer, who will have New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton on the bag this week at The Old White TPC, will be previewing course conditions and answering fan questions during the Hangout, which can be streamed live here on the TOUR Report.
You can submit a question for Palmer in the comments below or on Twitter, using #PGATOURchat.
To see all of the PGA TOUR's Hangouts with TOUR players, fans and media, click here.
Zach Johnson didn't play his best round but held it together for a 69. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The best moment of the first round was a quiet exchange between caddie and player in the ninth fairway. Ryan Palmer had hit a 303-yard drive on his final hole and followed that up with a wedge to 5 feet. His caddie, James Edmondson, whispered, “Make that putt and you’ll tie my course record.”
Edmondson is a Colonial member and three-time club champion. With Edmondson's encouragement, Palmer made the putt for an 8-under 62. He knows the course so well, Palmer was not afraid to hit driver on most holes and knew his numbers so well, he never needed to look at his yardage book.
Frustrated: Zach Johnson seemed ready to make his move. He was 1 under and had 98 yards into the sixth green. Johnson pushed his sandwedge 10 yards right of the hole, into a bunker and made bogey enroute to a 69. It was such a bad shot, I wondered if Johnson had been in a divot. “Not a bad lie, just a bad swing,” was his answer. Frequently this season, Johnson seems ready for a charge that doesn’t materialize. He says a “lack of fundamentals” is the problem and while Johnson did not elaborate, he could be referring to his putting.
Johnson ranked eighth and 11th in strokes gained-putting the last two seasons but is 101st this year. He has always had an unusual address position while putting, with his hands even with -- or even slightly behind -- the golf ball. Johnson worked hard last season in getting his hands slightly forward at address but they appear to be even with the ball this year.
Inconsistent: Jason Dufner has had plenty of good rounds this year but has not had a good tournament. He has yet to post a top-10 finish and it’s puzzling. Dufner ranks 72nd in FedExCup points and is 47th in scoring average at 70.857. Dufner has struggled on the weekend, ranking 115th in third-round scoring and 165th in the final round. When a player consistently struggles, he knows he has to make changes. Dufner shows flashes of great play and then fluctuates. That is very frustrating for the player because the game keeps teasing him into thinking everything is fine and he doesn’t know whether to make changes or stay the course.
Color coordinated: Daniel Summerhays knows why he shot 65 in the opening round. Part of it was due to taking 23 putts and making nine birdies while averaging a tournament leading 1.182 putts per green. Those are all good reasons, but Summerhays wanted to talk about his clothing. He wore an orange shirt with gray pants and Summerhays says every time he wears that color combination he plays well. In fact, Summerhays says he might wash the shirt just so he can wear it again this week. If Summerhays keeps taking just 23 putts per round, it won’t matter what color combination he wears.
Let it fly: Colonial is known as a golf course for shot makers. The theory is you play for position off the tee, sacrificing distance for accuracy. Matt Every had a different plan and went with driver more than most other players. Every hit only eight fairways but averaged 302 yards off the tee. It led to a 5-under 65. Every reasoned a cool spring has lead to sparse bermuda rough and the course is not as punishing as it has been in the past.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
Ryan Palmer had one of the best driving rounds of his career on Thursday. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The challenge from caddie James Edmondson to his pro, Ryan Palmer, came late on their back nine in Thursday's first round at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
See if you can match my low score on this course.
"What do you do when you get that thrown at you?" Palmer said with a laugh.
Indeed, it doesn't happen often that a caddie has a better track record at a course than the man whose bag he's carrying.
Palmer is a three-time winner on the PGA TOUR with nearly $14 million in earnings, but it's his good friend Edmondson who knows how to best succeed at Colonial. After all, he's a three-time Colonial club champion.
But with Palmer having the round of his life on his home course -- the Texas native has lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for several years and has been a Colonial member since 2010 -- Edmondson threw down the gauntlet. And Palmer responded. He birdied his final hole, the par-4 ninth, to shoot an 8-under 62.
That ties for the lowest opening round in tournament history. It ties for Palmer's lowest round of his career. And apparently it ties Edmondson's low round on this venerable course.
"We had a good laugh on that one," Palmer said.
It was a day for Palmer to finally feel good.
Two weeks ago, another close friend, Clay Aderholt, died in an auto accident. Palmer, with Clay's initials on his cap, finished tied for fifth that week at THE PLAYERS Championship, a tournament in which he usually struggles. Last week, after traveling back from Aderholt's memorial service, Palmer started strong at the HP Byron Nelson Championship before fading on the weekend.
This week, he's on comfortable and familiar ground. He plays Colonial "at least once or twice" a week during his off-weeks, even more in the winter. On those days, he meets his friends at 12:30 in the afternoon for the "Big Game." He gives them several shots. The laughs are plenty. It's a time for Palmer to enjoy golf without having to grind.
That's probably the reason he's never come close, even in those stress-free outings, to shooting the kind of score he shot on Thursday. He said his lowest practice score has been a 65.
"Half the time, I might grab a few on the back nine and drink it myself," Palmer said with a smile.
But all the rounds left Palmer feeling extremely comfortable on Thursday. He hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, and the majority of his birdie putts were inside 7 feet.
Palmer used driver on 11 of 14 driving holes and never found trouble. Coming into this week, Palmer ranked 128th in driving accuracy this year on the PGA TOUR.
"I felt comfortable over every tee shot," Palmer said. "... The way I hit it, I drew it up perfectly like I wanted to."
Unlike last week at TPC Four Seasons, Palmer didn't have Edmondson choosing his club for each shot. They've used that approach the last three years at the HP Byron Nelson, but for every other tournament, it's Palmer who has final say.
At Colonial, he doesn't even need to use his yardage book. He knows the course that well.
"It helps, obviously, the experience I have had here," Palmer said.
Nothing would delight him more than to see his name on the Wall of Champions at the first tee box. Having that honor at a club in which he's a member would be extra special. He said he dreams about it all the time.
"I can't begin to tell you what it would mean if it happens," Palmer said. "Hopefully I'll be able to tell you on Sunday."
Ryan Palmer discusses his 62 on Thursday with SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio's Fred Albers.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Ryan Palmer, a member at Colonial Country Club, shot a bogey-free 8-under 62 in Thursday's first round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, tying for the lowest opening round in tournament history.
The 62 also ties Palmer's career low round. It's the fifth time he has shot 62 at a TOUR event.
Palmer joins Patrick Sheehan (2005), David Toms (2011) and Chez Reavie (2011) for low opening round.
Palmer's 62 is also just the eighth recorded in any round at Colonial. The course record of 61 is held by six players.
Palmer's 62 leaves him atop the leaderboard midway through the first round, two shots ahead of Morgan Hoffmann.
Starting on the 10th hole, Palmer reeled off four consecutive birdies starting at No. 14. After making the turn, he birdied the par-5 first hole, and then birdied three of his last four holes.
Five of Palmer's eight birdie putts were less than 7 feet, as he had his irons dialed in all day.
RYAN PALMER'S LOWEST ROUNDS ON PGA TOUR
|62 (10 under)||Oct. 24, 2004||FUNAI Classic-Disney||4||Won|
|62 (10 under)||Jan. 29, 2006||Buick Invitational||2||T-35|
|62 (9 under)||Oct. 16, 2005||Michelin Championship||1||T-12|
|62 (9 under)||Feb. 3, 20013||Waste Management Phoenix Open||4||5|
|62 (8 under)||May 23, 2013||Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial||1||???|
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."