LA QUINTA, Calif. – Ryan Palmer shot the lowest round in his PGA Tour career. He matched the tour record for the longest eagle-birdie streak. He moved into contention in the Humana Challenge.
The 38-year-old Texan did his best to look at the many positives. It wasn't easy after letting a chance to shoot 59 or lower slip away Friday at PGA West.
"The most important thing now was getting back within striking distance," Palmer said.
After playing an eight-hole stretch in 10 under, Palmer needed to go 3 under on the final eight — with two reachable par 5s left — to shoot 59.
Instead, he bogeyed the next two holes. He made three more birdies, but couldn't get a couple of late putts to fall and settled for an 11-under 61.
"Walking off 10, after I got to 10 under, I was staying calm, trying not to think about anything, just trying to keep my momentum going, my pace with my walk," Palmer said. "It's hard not to think about it."
After opening with two pars, Palmer had two eagles and six birdies on the next eight holes to match the longest eagle-birdie streak in tour history. The streak ended with a bogey on the par-4 second and he dropped another stroke on the par-3 third.
"Couple loose swings there," Palmer said. "I guess the bogeys did kind of calm me down a little bit more and I didn't worry about, obviously, the number."
Palmer birdied the fourth and sixth holes and made another on the par-5 eighth after missing an 8-foot eagle try. A 59 no longer possible, he missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the ninth in a closing par.
Palmer holed out from 97 yards for eagle on the par-4 12th to start the streak on the Jack Nicklaus Private Course. He birdied the next three holes, made a 20-foot eagle putt from the fringe on the par-5 16th and added three more birdies.
"I didn't make anything long, except for the eagle on 16," Palmer said.
He tied the birdie-eagle streak record set by Billy Mayfair in the 2001 Buick Open and matched by Briny Baird in the 2003 FUNAI Classic. Mayfair and Baird were 9 under during their runs, making seven birdies and an eagle.
At 9-under 27, Palmer matched the tour record for relation to par for nine holes and was a stroke off the record of 26 set by Corey Pavin on a par-34 nine in Milwaukee in 2006.
Six players have shot 59 on the PGA Tour. Al Geiberger did it in the 1977 Memphis Classic, Chip Beck in the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational, David Duval on PGA West's Arnold Palmer Private Course in the final round of his 1999 Bob Hope victory, Paul Goydos in the 2010 John Deere Classic, Stuart Appleby in the 2010 Greenbrier Classic and Jim Furyk in the 2013 BMW Championship. Ryo Ishikawa shot the lowest round on a major tour, a 58 to win the 2010 Crowns on the Japan Tour.
Palmer had a 12-under 132 total after opening with a 71 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club. He was three strokes behind leader Matt Kuchar.
Kuchar, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 11, had a 64 on the Nicklaus course. He tied for third last week in Hawaii in the Sony Open.
"Game feels solid," Kuchar said. "I feel like I know where it's going, feel like I'm hitting it in the center of the clubface."
Bill Haas and first-round leader Michael Putnam were a stroke back. Haas had a 63 at La Quinta. He had nine birdies in a 10-hole stretch, making seven in a row on Nos. 2-8.
"The putter was what's got me in the hunt," Haas said. "We don't play better greens on tour than these greens here."
Putnam shot a 67 on the Palmer course.
Justin Thomas, Nick Watney and Scott Pinckney were 13 under. Thomas had a 63, Watney shot 64, and Pinckney 67 — all on the Nicklaus course.
Phil Mickelson was 7 under in his first start since the Ryder Cup in September. He birdied his final five holes for a 66 on the Nicklaus course.
"It took me 31 holes to get my game to click," Mickelson said.
The 44-year-old Mickelson won the event in 2002 and 2004. He's winless in 27 PGA Tour starts since the 2013 British Open.
DIVOTS: Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton had a 66 at La Quinta to get to 12 under. ... Defending champion Patrick Reed, paired with Kuchar, was 9 under after a 70. He's coming off a playoff victory two weeks ago in Hawaii in the Tournament of Champions. ... Blake Adams followed his opening 64 on the Nicklaus course with a 79 at La Quinta. He had hip replacement surgery in July and is making his first tour start since March.