PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Ryan Palmer shot 3-under-par 69 on Friday to go with his opening-round 67 and assure his spot for the weekend at The Players Championship. To Palmer’s credit, the 69 was more impressive, considering the sleepless night he endured before Friday’s round.
Palmer received a call Thursday evening with the news that his best friend, Clay Aderholt, was killed in a car wreck in San Antonio earlier that night.
“(We go back to) grade school, junior high (Bonham Middle School) , all-stars, baseball, basketball, high school (Amarillo High), even went to (Texas) A&M, as well,” Palmer said. “All the way back as long as I can remember.
“I got a call from my financial advisor who lives in his neighborhood and he told me what happened. It was a restless night to say the least.”
The news overshadowed Palmer’s two best rounds at The Players since he first played in the tournament in 2005. In 16 previous rounds here, he had never posted a sub-70 score until this week. His two-day total of 136 has him in contention.
Palmer had made just one cut at the Players in seven years (2007) and his final score of 295 that year was the second highest in the tournament, tied for 75th.
He’s in line for a higher and more lucrative finish this time, providing he can keep his emotions in check the next two days. While it was tough to do so on Friday, Palmer said he was able to maintain his concentration throughout the round.
“My mind was good today, all things considered, but it’s great to feel good to be in contention here at this tournament where I’ve struggled,” Palmer said. “I am excited about the weekend.”
Palmer paid tribute to Aderholt with the letters C-A on both sides of his hat. He said he did not consider withdrawing from the tournament after learning the news of his late friend’s death.
“I talked to some close friends and nothing I can really do except keep him in my prayers and memories and just keep playing golf,” he said. “That’s what I took with me today and I felt really calm. I kind of just took things slow.”
On the front nine Friday, Palmer had one birdie and five pars in the first six holes before closing with bogey, bogey, eagle. Things got even more interesting on the second nine. Between pars on Nos. 10 and 18, Palmer made three birdies, three bogeys and an eagle. He sank his putt from off the green on No. 9 and chipped in from a bunker on No. 11 for his two eagles, the first time he’s ever done that in a tournament, let alone the same round.
When Palmer finished his round with a par at the 18th hole, his emotions spilled out.
“I had some good talks last night with a friend of ours, (Palmer’s wife) Jennifer and then Fran. He had some good things to say. One of the things to do is just to come out and play golf.”