May 27 2011
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
IRVING, Texas -- At one point during Friday's second round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship, Ryan Palmer let his mind drift. With a commanding lead at that point, he was tempted to look ahead to Sunday. His parents are coming to town, and Palmer thought about how great it would be to win while they were in attendance.
Then he caught himself.
"Wait a minute," Palmer said. "This shot. I need to hit this shot."
No worries. Palmer hit plenty of good shots Friday en route to a 3-under 67 that left him at 8 under for the tournament. When he walked off the final green Friday, he had a four-shot lead, although the afternoon group had just begun to tee off.
For the second consecutive day, he let his caddie James Edmondson call the shots on the tee box with club and target selection. Palmer said there was really only one time Friday in which he wondered about Edmondson's club choice -- at the par-4 18th hole.
Palmer normally hits driver. Edmondson had him use a 5-wood.
"What am I going to do, hit 5-wood, 5-wood?" Palmer asked.
Said Edmondson: "Let's practice for the British Open. Hit the 5-wood hard."
So Palmer did, finding the middle of the fairway. He then hit 5-iron to 25 feet for an easy two-putt par.
Joked Palmer: "He's playing steady golf, too."
Palmer said he is getting more comfortable with that approach, which was implemented for this week's event.
"I keep surprising myself how calm I am when it's that way," Palmer said. "You wonder why don't you do it every week ...
"This is a golf course that I've struggled on so it's nice to not to think about it, just get up and hit the shot, and if I don't hit the shots it's on me. So it's nice to be free swinging like that."
With good vibes off the tee, Palmer also wants to make sure he keeps his short game in order. He said he's been "fighting my chipping for a while," so he spent an hour with coach Randy Smith on Thursday night after his first-round 65, working strictly on the short game.
His ball-striking certainly has been tremendous this week. He was getting so close with his approach shots that he shot the 67 on Friday without needing to make a putt longer than nine feet. In fact, for the first 36 holes, he's only needed to make one putt longer than 10 feet.
"It just shows how solid I'm hitting the golf ball," said Palmer, who could move up to 14th in the FedExCup standings should he win. "... I'm not making that many long ones, but I'm not having that many as well. So that's good."
Now the challenge for Palmer is to continue his steady play for another 36 holes. He said he's comfortable when he's at or near the top of the leaderboard going into the weekend.
"I can look back on when I've been in this position, I've come out on top or close," he said.
That’s good news for Palmer. Perhaps bad news for everybody else in the field.