Phoenix Open Day 1: Ryan Palmer leads, ASU amateur honors Pat Tillman
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Ryan Palmer’s month couldn’t be building his confidence much better than this.
After finishing 17th in the Sony Open in the middle of January and following up with a tie for 10th at the Humana Challenge last week, Palmer is alone in first place after a partial first round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
"I hate using the word ‘easy,’ but at times it feels like I can’t miss from tee to green," the 38-year-old said Thursday. "You know, as long as I keep doing that — one thing I started last year is I just kept telling myself to get out of the way and let your talent take over. Go through your routines and just pull the trigger. You’re good enough to hit this golf shot, and just go and get your mind out of the way."
Palmer leads by a shot over three players after the opening round was called at 5:45 p.m. MST because of darkness accentuated by cloudy (and slightly rainy) weather. Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson and Daniel Berger are tied for second at 6 under at TPC Scottsdale.
Here’s a look at the full Phoenix Open leaderboard, Tiger Woods’ day and round 2 tee times. And here’s what else went on in front of a record-breaking crowd of 118,461, which broke the previous event record by more than 30,000:
Arizona State junior Jon Rahm, the third-ranked amateur in the world, broke out his Pat Tillman jersey at the famed 16th hole, but it didn’t prevent the crowd from booing him when he didn’t land his tee shot on the green.
Rahm, who finished Thursday at 1-under par through 16 holes, would put together a nice chip to reach par, and he followed up with an eagle on the par-4 17th. There, his 344-yard blast to the green put the ball 10 feet from the cup.
Rahm proved he could handle the heat.
And ASU alum Phil Mickelson returned from a hiatus to shoot 2 under on the day.
"This was an important thing for me because I’m in a position now if I get hot tomorrow, now I can get right back in it," Mickelson said.
Among other notable local faces were Rory Sabbatini (3 under), Pat Perez (1 under), Matt Jones (1 under), Ricky Barnes (even), Robert Garrigus (1 over) and Chez Reavie (4 over).
Rahm wasn’t the only one playing to the crowd on the 16th.
Oklahoma State Cowboys product Morgan Hoffman donned a giant, orange cowboy hat that he gave to fans after his first shot. Palmer handed fans autographed golf balls wrapped with a $10 bill that read "have a beer on me."
"I don’t know if $10 covers a beer here or not," Palmer said. "They got some change out of it, maybe."
Others like Woods didn’t do so well. Tiger stepped up to hit the ball off the tee twice, only to step away to take another look as the crowd booed. He made par. Zach Johnson, who otherwise had a big day at 5 under, didn’t do so well either.
"I missed one green (all day)," Johnson said. "Go figure. It was 16, so I got booed. You know, I mean, it was a good miss. Wasn’t that big of a deal."
The bizarre story of Australian Robert Allenby being abducted and robbed a few weeks ago while in Hawaii led the headlines leading into the Phoenix Open. And with that, Allenby was expecting the worst from the fans at TPC Scottsdale.
"I was a little bit, you know, a little bit nervous going into 16," he said after shooting 1-under.
"I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But I just knew it was going to be loud and, you know, I was just like, You know what? Just go with the flow and have fun with it. You know, just don’t let it get to you. And they were actually really good. I was actually really surprised. There was nothing mean at all. I think some of the comments were actually pretty funny."
Like his partner Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth was coming off a break, the longest of the workaholic 21-year-old’s brief career. Like Tiger, Spieth got off to an ugly start.
In doing so, he actually might’ve done some damage to his current living quarters.
"I have just been so anxious for so long that once it was there, I guess the first few holes I just wanted to get started, off to a good start," Spieth said. "I just pumped one off my own room on 5. For real … I actually did pump it off my own room on 5."