LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Ryan Palmer would love to get his hands on the Wanamaker Trophy.
He knows another guy named Palmer never did.
Taking advantage of softer-than-expected greens on the back side, the nondescript Texan shot a 6-under 65 on Thursday for a share of the lead at the PGA Championship with Lee Westwood and Kevin Chappell.
While one round does not make a champion, someone asked the 37-year-old Palmer what it would mean to win the only major championship that eluded Arnold Palmer.
“Ask me that again on Sunday night if we are still here,” he replied. “I knew this is the one he didn’t win. I guess if this Palmer won it, that would be cool.”
This Palmer started at No. 10 and ripped off five birdies in his first nine holes. He found the greens to be especially receptive, allowing him to roll in a 12-footer at the 10th, an 18-footer at the 14th and a 20-footer at the 17th.
With a two-putt birdie at the par-5 18th, Palmer made the turn with a 31.
The front side proved more difficult, but he holed out from the rough at No. 5 for his sixth birdie of the round. Two holes later, when he got up and down from a greenside bunker at another par-5 for the outright lead, he really started thinking big.
“Obviously I could tell a few more people showed up, and then of course they start taking pictures of you when you’re walking,” Palmer said. “When you get to where people are taking pictures of you walking, then you know you’re playing good, because you know they are not watching my clothes or my walk.”
A 62 was in reach.
No one had ever gone that low in a major.
“I knew where I stood,” Palmer said. “I’ll admit, I watch leaderboards. It was a good feeling. I wanted to get to 8 (under) so bad, and it kept driving me. We’ll take 6 (under) going into tomorrow.”
No doubt. Palmer hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since 2010, and this is first time he has led after any round of a major championship.
But this score didn’t come out of nowhere.
Palmer has a couple of runner-up finishes this year, including a playoff loss to Russell Henley at the Honda Classic, not to mention a fifth-place showing at the Colonial and another top 10 in Houston.
“It’s been a good year. Very consistent,” Palmer said. “It’s nice to play great this late in the year, especailly going into the (FedEx Cup) playoffs in a few weeks. Hopefully, we can finish this one off.”
Even before the start of play, Palmer managed to make quite an impression at Valhalla.
After Tiger Woods arrived Wednesday, drawing a horde of media and fans, Palmer photobombed a frame of the 14-time major champion crossing a narrow bridge on the first hole.
“I’m walking down that bridge, and there’s a dozen cameras just going at it,” Palmer said. “So I just gave them a little, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ I think Tiger photobombed me personally.”
If Palmer keeps it going for three more rounds, he’ll have plenty of people who want his picture.
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