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May 23 2013

5:07 PM

Palmer finally equal ... to his caddie

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."

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