Palmer eager for '18 after year when his wife faced cancer
Honolulu — Ryan Palmer couldn't wait for 2018 to arrive.
It began with an up-and-down week at the Sony Open — a 64 sandwiched between a pair of 71s, and a tie for 58th — though his mood was decidedly steadier. Palmer was in good spirits when he arrived and nothing on the scorecard was going to change that.
It’s nice to have last year behind him.
He had surgery on his shoulder in October, and that’s now healed. A new home being built on seven acres in the Dallas area is almost finished. Above all that, his wife, Jennifer, is getting nothing but favorable scans in her recovery from breast cancer.
“I couldn’t have been any more calm when I got here Monday — on the range, practice rounds, the pro-am, everything,” Palmer said.
A year ago when he arrived on Oahu, his wife was still undergoing chemotherapy for the cancer. Palmer missed four straight cuts to start the year and didn’t crack the top 35 until April. He had only three top-10 finishes, one of them the team event with Jordan Spieth at the Zurich Classic.
“It seemed like a blur,” Palmer said. “Usually you can go back and look at tournaments and see what you did. It was mostly bad stuff. But I don’t remember one thing about it. The time Jordan and I had was awesome. I know I had a good week in Reno (tie for ninth).”
One day he does recall clearly is when Jennifer had her last round of chemotherapy, which was followed by 35 radiation treatments.
“Each time she goes back to get checked the scan is good,” he said.
Palmer is on a minor medical extension and has five tournaments remaining to earn 24 FedEx Cup points, the least of his worries.
He hadn’t played since August, when he failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. He knew he needed arthroscopic surgery to clean up a bone spur in his shoulder but thought about playing a few events when the new season began in October.
Instead, he took off the entire fall and spent time going to 10-year-old son Mason’s hockey games. It also allowed him to recover in time to go to Hawaii. He plans to play next three events in the California desert, Phoenix and San Diego. He’ll take the following two weeks off to move into his house.
“This year couldn’t be any better right now,” Palmer said.
One of the local rules adopted at the start of the new year involved video review. Players no longer are penalized two shots if they sign an incorrect scorecard that they thought was correct at the time, which stems from violations discovered after the round.
The major golf organizations also agreed to assign one or more official to monitor the broadcast to help identify and resolve any issues that arise.
“We’ll have someone watching the broadcast, whether that person is a rules official coming in from the golf course or ... whether it’s someone back in the office watching the broadcast and communicating,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Still to be determined is who that person will be.
Rules officials don’t think the staff is big enough to take an official off the course. If it’s a PGA Tour official, the question becomes how adept the official is at spotting a violation. And while such video reviews get plenty of attention, they don’t happen often enough to warrant someone sitting in front of a TV for three hours.
There has been video monitoring for years. When the final group makes the turn, with fewer players on the course, the tour will send one official in to watch TV.
That’s what saved Zach Johnson at the Colonial in 2012.
He moved his marker on the 18th green for Jason Dufner, and then holed a 5-foot putt for what looked to be a three-shot victory. But he forgot to move his marker back, and he was penalized two shots. If a rules official had not been monitoring the telecast and someone else had noticed it after Johnson had signed his card, then he would have been disqualified.
A definition of confidence
Fifteen months ago, Justin Thomas had one PGA Tour victory and was No. 35 in the world. Now he’s the PGA Tour player of the year, FedEx Cup champion and a major champion and has seven victories.
That his confidence has soared is obvious. What exactly does that mean?
“I don’t have the sense of panic,” Thomas said. “I know that I don’t need to be what I thought I had to be to be in contention. I know that I don’t have to go out and play this perfect round. I know that if I shoot 1 under the first round at this tournament, that I still have a chance to win. I know that I’m not going to win every tournament. It’s more the fact of the whole body language and the patience thing.”
His own example would have been the TPC Boston last year during the FedEx Cup playoffs, and the CJ Cup in South Korea when he was exhausted from a busy fall and squeaked out a playoff victory.
“That to me is more confidence building and reassuring than anything else,” he said.
Gary Woodland had every reason to think he would have a short week at the Sony Open. After opening with a 67, he was on his way to shooting 40 on the front nine at Waialae. At that stage, he was 5 over through eight holes of the second round and four shots below the projected cut.
He played the final 10 holes in 8 under, closing with five straight birdies, for a 67.
Fast forward to Sunday. Woodland got off to another slow start and was 2 over through six holes, effectively out of the tournament. He played the final 12 holes in 8 under par (six birdies and an eagle), for a 64. Sure, he finished 11 shots behind. But he also tied for seventh, worth 85 points in the FedEx Cup.
It might not sound like much now. But remember, a year ago Woodland made it to the Tour Championship with 42 points to spare.
The Dubai Desert Classic is one week earlier on the calendar this year, so organizers have invested in floodlights around the combined ninth and 18th greens on the Majlis Course to make sure everyone can finish the opening two rounds. The field size was increased by six players to its original size of 132 players. ... The Symetra Tour will feature the Prasco Charity Championship on June 29 to July 1 at the TPC River Bend outside Cincinnati. It’s the first time the Symetra Tour or LPGA Tour play on a course that’s part of the TPC Network. ... Coming off a seven-win season, Bernhard Langer begins a PGA Tour Champions season this week in Hawaii nine victories short of the senior record held by Hale Irwin.
Stat of the week
Twenty years ago, Mark Calcavecchia won the Honda Classic and became the 11th player in PGA Tour history to surpass $8 million in career earnings. Four players made at least $8 million last year.
“That’s all I want to do is just be somewhere that I’ve never been, because that gets me uncomfortable. That’s when I know I’m doing something right.” — Patton Kizzire.
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