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NORTON, Mass. – Ryan Palmer would not have guessed this would be his lowest round of the year, at least not the way it started.
He pulled his tee shot left into a hazard. After a penalty drop, he went just over the green some 40 feet from the flag, and still had 4 feet left just to make bogey. But he made the putt — and then he made a bunch more.
When his round ended with an 18-foot birdie putt, Palmer had taken only 21 putts and had an 8-under 63. That gave him a two-shot lead over Keegan Bradley after the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship.
"I don't think I've ever had 21 putts in one round — and 15 one-putts," Palmer said. "But it was good. I hit it close when I needed to. I made a few longer ones. Just a very calm, calm day out there."
He couldn't speak for the rest of the 92 players at the TPC Boston.
Some of them are trying to extend their season by finishing in the top 70 in the FedEx Cup so they can advance to the third playoff event next week in Denver, and keep alive hopes at that $10 million bonus for winning the cup. Others have another cup on their mind — the Ryder Cup.
This is the last week before U.S. captain Tom Watson and European captain Paul McGinley make their three wild-card selections. Some half-dozen players in the running, maybe more, are at the TPC Boston.
Is Palmer one of them? A week ago, Hunter Mahan won The Barclays and suddenly was looked upon as a shoo-in. Then again, he has played in two Ryder Cups. On Friday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Bradley got off to a fast start with his bogey-free 65 and was looked up as a virtual lock.
"I think if I go out and shoot good scores, yeah, I think I'm in good shape," Bradley said. "But there's so many great players that aren't on this team. I don't take anything for granted. I don't think I'm a lock by any means."
Here are some things to take away from the opening round:
NEW CADDIE: Ryan Palmer's regular caddie, James Edmondson, isn't at the TPC Boston this week. Among other family issues, Edmondson is best friends with Lance Bennett, who caddies for Matt Kuchar. Bennett's wife died of a seizure on Tuesday — the couple has a 4-year-old daughter. Edmondson stayed home in Dallas to be with him.
"When he said, 'I may need to stay home,' I said, 'Done. Don't worry about. We're just playing golf,'" Palmer said.
Palmer hired Brett Waldman, the longtime caddie who was good enough to play the Nationwide Tour a few years ago.
RYDER CUP-AMERICA: Bradley and Phil Mickelson won all three of their matches together in the last Ryder Cup at Medinah. Bradley took a scouting trip to Gleneagles, site of the Sept. 26-28 matches this year, with Watson. He seems like a logical choice. Bradley sure doesn't mind confessing how badly he wants to be on the team.
"I'm not going to sit up here and say any clichés that I'm not thinking about the Ryder Cup or any of that," Bradley said. "I am very aware every second of the day that I'm being watched by the captain. And I'm just trying to embrace that be aware of it and enjoy it if I can."
RYDER CUP-EUROPE: Ian Poulter didn't qualify for the European team, though he figures to be a lock after what he did to the Americans last time at Medinah. Two players from Europe have jokingly said — or maybe not — that McGinley has two picks and Poulter.
That he opened with a 67 was a good thing. Poulter just cares about the golf at this point.
"I just want to play golf," Poulter said. "It's been a (bad) year, and I want to turn it around right now."
Luke Donald opened with a 69. His hopes would appear to be helped provided Stephen Gallacher and Francesco Molinari don't have big weeks in Italy.
PHIL MICKELSON: Mickelson doesn't like the idea of the PGA Tour stacking four playoff events in successive weeks, which followed a World Golf Championship and the PGA Championship in successive weeks, and the Ryder Cup looming.
He nearly stayed home, except that he needed to play this week to make sure he gets to Denver. So while the scores were shocking — 5 over through 7 — Mickelson was not terribly surprised by his play. He made only six pars. He made six birdies. He had a 73.
"I said it would be feast or famine," Mickelson said. "I was hoping it would be Stableford. If it was Stableford, I'd be right in it."
RORY MCILROY: Rory McIlroy started his day with a tap-in birdie, followed with a 40-foot birdie putt, hit another shot stiff and was 3 under through four holes. But a couple of bogeys slowed his momentum, and the PGA and British Open champion had to settle for a 70.