Scottsdale, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) – Ryan Palmer fired a 7-under 65 in
Thursday’s opening round and stood alone atop the leaderboard as play at the
Phoenix Open was suspended due to darkness.
Palmer, who is coming off a tie for 10th last week at the Humana Challenge, is
a three-time winner on the PGA Tour.
Tiger Woods returned to action for the first time in an official event since
last year’s PGA Championship. He rallied from a poor start for a 2-over 73,
which left him tie for 104th.
Woods opened with a pair of bogeys at one and two. A poor chip led to a
double-bogey, which dropped him to 4-over par through four holes. He got one
stroke back with a 13-foot birdie putt at five, but he tripped to a bogey at
nine as his drive stopped on the edge of a bunker and he had a poor stance.
Around the turn, Woods’s drive at 11 stopped under a small bush and that led
to another a dropped shot. After a solid drive on the par-5 13th, he stuffed
his second shot inside a foot.
The tap-in eagle got Woods back to plus-3. He parred the next two, then drove
the green at the drivable 17th. He 2-putted for birdie from 20 feet out. A par
at the last left Woods at 2-over par and nine strokes off the lead.
“I’m just having a hard time finding the bottom. Because of my old pattern, I
was so steep on it that I have new grind on my wedge, and sometimes it’s hard
to trust,” Woods explained of his poor chipping. “I got into the flow of the
round, but it was just trying to get committed to this new swing change. I
struggled with it in the beginning. I just need tournament rounds like this,
where I can fight through it and turn it around, grind through it and make
adjustments on the fly.”
Major champions Keegan Bradley and Bubba Watson share second place at minus-6.
They were joined there by Daniel Berger, who was through 16 holes of round one
at the TPC Scottsdale.
Former Masters winner Zach Johnson carded a 5-under 66. He was joined in fifth
place by Martin Laird, Robert Streb and Ben Martin.
Phil Mickelson, a three-time winner of this event, also started slowly as he
was 3-over par through six holes, but he carded five birdies over the final 11
holes for a 2-under 69. He is in a large group tied for 29th.
Play was suspended for the day by darkness with nine players left on the
course. They will return to TPC Scottsdale at 10 a.m. ET on Friday to complete
their opening rounds, while round two will start as scheduled at 9:30 a.m.
Palmer played the back nine first on Thursday and he got going with a 9-foot
birdie effort at the 12th. Like Woods, Palmer dropped his second at the 13th
to kick-in range and that eagle quickly moved Palmer to minus-3.
The 38-year-old rolled in a 19-footer for birdie at the raucous par-3 16th and
made it two in a row with a short birdie effort at 17. After a par at 18,
Palmer turned at minus-5 and he was one shot off the lead.
Palmer dropped his approach to nine feet at No. 2 and he drained that to gain
a piece of the lead. He made it two in a row as he also birdied the third to
move atop the leaderboard at minus-7.
After taking the lead, Palmer closed with 2-putt pars on the final six holes.
In that span, his shortest birdie chance was from 27 feet out.
NOTES: Palmer matched the second-lowest 9-hole score in PGA Tour history last
week at the Humana as he fired a 9-under 27 on the back at nine of the
Nicklaus Private course at PGA West … Woods, who is winless since the 2013
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, carded his first eagle on the PGA Tour since
that same WGC event in 2013 … Thursday’s attendance was 118,461, which set
the Thursday record by 30,000 fans.