Published November 20, 2014
Ryan Palmer parred his final hole at dusk for a 7-under 64 and the lead Thursday in the suspended first round of the Phoenix Open.
The start of the round was delayed an hour because of frost, and play was suspended because of darkness at 6:05 p.m. with 42 players unable to finish. Last year, frost and frozen greens delayed play nine hours during the week, forcing a Monday finish.
"I knew I was going to be here in the morning for the second round, so I wasn't worried about it if we had to come back and restart," Palmer said. "So, I didn't think about it and I just kept hitting shots and sticking to my game plan."
Webb Simpson was a stroke back on the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale.
"It's one of those courses that just fits your eye well," said Simpson, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 6.
Palmer switched back to a trusted Odyssey putter model after missing the cuts in his previous starts this year in the Sony Open and Humana Challenge. The three-tour PGA Tour winner made seven birdie putts from 10-15 feet.
"I used the exact same putter the last two years, and of course had two of the best years of my career," Palmer said. "But toward the end of the year last year, around the BMW, I just got frustrated with not making anything, so I thought I'd try something different, put a similar style head in play and actually had some success.
"But my first two weeks out here I could tell I wasn't comfortable when I'd get over the short putts. When I got home from Bob Hope (Humana), I pulled it out of the garage and was putting in my living room, then went outside in the backyard on my putting green, and I knew it was time to bring it back out. So it showed today."
He was 8 under after a birdie on No. 6, but had his lone bogey on No. 7 and parred the final two holes.
Jarrod Lyle, Harrison Frazar, Derek Lamely, Kevin Na and Chez Reavie were two strokes behind at 66, and Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner and Spencer Levin also were 5 under. Watson and Levin had three holes left. Dufner, a playoff loser last year, had five holes remaining.
Kyle Stanley opened with a 69, four days after a devastating loss in the Farmers Insurance Open. On Sunday at Torrey Pines, he made a triple-bogey 8 on the final hole of regulation and lost to Brandt Snedeker in a playoff.
"It was just good to be out there," Stanley said. "It was almost therapeutic."
He was 4 under with three holes left, but bogeyed Nos. 7 and 9.
"I hit it decent," Stanley said. "Hit a couple wedges that didn't respond the way I thought they were going to, but other than that, I'm pretty pleased."
He received warm cheers and words of encouragement from the fans.
"I'm kind of overwhelmed by it," Stanley said.
Phil Mickelson had 24 putts in a 68, and defending champion Mark Wilson, coming off a victory two weeks ago in the Humana Challenge, was 1 under with two holes left.
"I feel so good with the putter," said Mickelson, the former Arizona State star who won the tournament in 1996 and 2005. "It's been a little while. It's been a few years since the guys out here have seen me putt like this."
Mickleson played alongside Dustin Johnson and the green-clad Rickie Fowler in a morning group that attracted the largest gallery in the estimated crowd of 77,053.
"I like the way he dresses," Mickelson said about Fowler. "It's not for me, but I think he dresses really sharp."
Fowler holed out from 68 yards for birdie on the par-5 15th after hitting his second shot into the water in front of the green.
"As soon as I hit it, I knew it was how I wanted to hit it," Fowler said. "It skipped behind the hole, and I could see it spinning right down the stick."
Fowler finished with a 69, and Johnson had a 68.
"I'm good buddies with Rickie and Phil, so we had a great time," Johnson said.
Simpson had five birdies in a six-hole stretch, capped by a 9-iron bunker shot to inches on the second hole after his drive drifted right and ended up in a bunker.
"I had a good lie in the bunker and had 145 yards. I was just trying to hit an easy 9," Simpson said. "It was one of those that just came out perfect and landed great and ended up being a tap-in. It was my favorite shot, I think, I've hit this year."
He also birdied the fifth hole to get to 7 under, but dropped a stroke on No. 6 when his chip released more than he expected.
Last year, the 26-year-old former Wake Forest player closed the regular season with a victory in the Wyndham Championship, then won the Deutsche Bank two weeks later in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He's coming off a two-week break after opening in Hawaii with a tie for third in the Tournament of Champions and a tie for 38th in the Sony Open.
"One of big things this year was you see so many players go out and have a big year and they come out and they struggle," Simpson said. "It's fine if I struggle, but I want to make sure that I'm doing the same things."
DIVOTS: Arron Oberholser, returning from hand and hip injuries, was 1 over with three holes to play in his first PGA Tour round since October 2009. ... Stephen Ames withdrew before the round because of back pain. Vaughn Taylor was in line to take the spot as an alternate, but wasn't on site, so Scott Brown got the position in the field. Brown was even par with three holes left.