The 2011 Nelson runner-up is off to a good start.
Palmer, who lives in Colleyville not far from TPC Four Seasons, opened with 6-under-par 64 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead over Marc Leishman and Alex Cejka.
Last year, Palmer birdied the 72nd hole to force a playoff against Keegan Bradley. Palmer then hit his approach into the greenside water to hand Bradley his first tour title.
“I didn’t lose it last year by any means,” Palmer said. “But to get back in the same setting with the same people watching, here where I live, and just to have that feeling again, this time be the guy standing with the trophy, that’s been my focus.”
Palmer’s bogey-free start came on a relatively calm day. With only a light breeze, 85 players were at par or better in the first round on the 7,166-yard course where Palmer and Bradley finished 72 holes last year at 3-under 277.
Matt Kuchar, who won Sunday’s Players Championship, overcome an opening bogey and was in a group of seven players at 66.
“Coming off momentum, a little tired,” said Kuchar, No. 5 in the world ranking. “It was a whole lot of extracurricular activities out of the norm for me, but I feel good about the round.”
Bradley, who won the PGA Championship three months after the Nelson, was among 13 players who shot 67. His up-and-down round included four bogeys, five birdies and an eagle.
The only other top 10 player this week is 10th-ranked Phil Mickelson. Back at the Nelson for the first time in five years, he had 70 with two birdies and two bogeys.
“I had a really good opportunity to take advantage of the course, and I just didn’t,” he said.