Ryan Palmer is in a good place these days.
His Lone Star State home in Colleyville is 25 minutes from revered Colonial Country Club, where the PGA Tour is scheduled to restart its season next week with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth.
He’s been a member of Colonial since 2010. And his long-time caddie, good friend James Edmondson, has been a Colonial member since 2005 and lives just 22 minutes away in North Richland Hills.
That’s a powerful 1-2-3 punch of advantage for the four-time Tour winner as the PGA Tour starts to get back up from being knocked out by the COVID-19 pandemic that halted play on Friday the 13th in March.
“It’s huge,” Palmer said of being in the right place at this time where so much uncertainty lies. “It’s an extra week at the house. We’re on a course I get to play all the time and I’ve had some success on. It’s very comforting knowing I don’t have to worry about going any places because I’ll be eating at home. I’ll go to the golf course and get back home.
“I can kind of quarantine myself.”
Another edge Palmer has in his bag is recent form at Colonial, otherwise known as Hogan’s Alley as the iconic Ben Hogan won five times on the grounds. The course has hosted a Tour event every year since 1946 except in 1949 (flooding) and 1975 (home to The Players Championship, won by Al Geiberger). Craig Wood won the 1941 U.S. Open here, Meg Mallon the 1991 U.S. Women’s Open.
On the stretch of 7,209 yards that plays to a par of 70, Palmer has four top-6 finishes in his last eight starts. While he’s yet to win the famous plaid jacket, he has to be considered a favorite next week in a field that will boast Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, the top five players in the world rankings.
“We know all the nuances of the place from hundreds if not thousands of rounds playing there year-round,” Edmondson said. “There is not a wind I haven’t seen and not a wind he hasn’t seen. We’ve played in every temperature.
“And we have a pretty good idea what the greens are doing.”
It’s like that back-of-the-hand thing.
“When we play the tournament, if I bring up a question on a tee box, he wonders why I’m even thinking about it,” Palmer said. “Do what you’ve done here for 10 years, he’ll say. It doesn’t take a lot of thinking when we’re there.
“When we play No. 7 during the tournament, we’ll see certain pins that we don’t see regularly, so I’ll play that hole a little differently. But other than that, I’ve seen every tee shot, every wind, every temperature from hot to cold, so there’s nothing I haven’t seen. Sometimes I’ve pulled my yardage book out on 15 and my scorecard and the page are on the fourth hole.
“There are a lot of small things about the course and the wind that you really don’t know about unless you’ve played there so many times.”
The two said the tight, tree-lined Colonial is home to some of the toughest fairways to hit in regulation and is an old-school, traditional course that has stood the test of time. But this time around, because no spectators will be allowed and no stands or hospitality tents have been built, the players will see a Colonial they’ve never seen. And it will play differently for one and all.
Well, except for Palmer.
“From a visual standpoint, some players will be used to seeing a row of stands here or fans there or used to seeing this or that. It can throw you not seeing that,” Palmer said. “And if you miss 10 or 16 or 17 long, you’re going to be doing things differently than you’ve done before. So it’s an advantage for me.”
Palmer and Edmondson have played quite a few rounds recently at Colonial and Palmer is starting to hit more balls on the practice ground to sharpen his game. And Edmondson has already started taking notes for his job.
“The course is in great shape,” Edmondson said. “The rough is where you’ll get jumpers so the ball is going to go a long ways a lot of times, especially in the heat. The ball is taking off right now.”
He’s also checked the long-term forecast – no rain, plenty of wind.
“I know it’s 10 days away, but if we get wind, like 20-, 25-mph gusts that are in the forecast, Colonial will have teeth,” Edmondson said. “I think 8-, 9-, 10-under will win the golf tournament.”
A tournament Palmer has dreamed of winning. Well, why not this year? Home cooking, home-field advantage, a brainy bagman at his side. He’s in the right place at maybe the right time.
“It’s time to get back to work and it’s time to play. Fans need it, we need it. We need to get sports going,” Palmer said. “I’m ready to play. And if this is the year? I couldn’t put it into words if I won. Being a member, the friends I have there, my dad’s favorite tournament, I couldn’t begin to put it into words.
“Well, until it happens.”
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