Palmer displays star qualities at the Clearwater Classic

BY Bruce Young | Web.com Tour | 2003 Clearwater Classic | Wrap | 09 Mar 2003
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The name Palmer has dominated conversation in golf for many years and don’t be surprised to see another Palmer rise to the top of the game over the next few years.

Ryan Palmer is no relation to the great Arnold Palmer, however, the way he played during just his second Nationwide Tour event, with the go-for-broke attitude, reminded me of the way the great man went about his business.

Opening day four with a three shot lead over Andre Stolz and six over Peter O’Malley, Kevin Johnson and Steve Collins, Palmer began his round untidily although a birdie at the par five second, after finding the hazard from the tee, helped to settle the nerves. When Palmer three putted the next hole, an opportunity opened for Stolz to move to within one shot of the lead, however, he missed and let Palmer off the hook.

Another amazing boost for Palmer came at the eighth hole a par four playing downwind. After taking an iron from the tee, he was left with 160 yards for his second shot and his nine iron finished at the bottom of the cup for an eagle and it also allowed him to regain his three shot lead. When Stolz birdied the par three twelfth with a putt of some forty feet, the gap was now down to two, but try as he may, he was not able to gain any further ground as the 26-year-old Texan edged towards what will become a significant moment in his young career.

Kevin Johnson, who was playing in the same group, was also making a move. He finished the front nine in four under (32) getting him to within four of the lead and although he displayed some fine golf, third was the best he could do.

It was a day of quality golf from the last group. Certainly the conditions on day four were the best of the week but between Palmer, Stolz and Johnson there were fifteen birdies and the eagle of Palmer’s at the eighth.

Stolz would have been disappointed that he was unable to win the event, as it would have added another option for him in 2003. Currently he has the chance to play in Japan and I think he will do well there but a win in Christchurch would have given him the right to play the Nationwide Tour also. He is in the middle of a very good run of late and the second placed finish takes him to the top of the Australasian Tour money list in 2003, his second at the Johnnie Walker a great contributor to that. He may well take up the option to play some events in the US on the Nationwide Tour, and he certainly has the game to do well there, but Japan is a more likely scenario in the short term. He received the acclaim of the Americans, who played with him during these two weeks and is clearly headed for even bigger things.

American David Branshaw rounded out the top four with a last round 67 heading off West Australian Nick O’Hern, who was the second best Australasian in 5th place. After a brilliant second round 64, Peter O’Malley was unable to make further progress and finished 6th alongside David Morland IV and Chris Downes, who continues to improve. Downes is now considering going to the US to play whatever Nationwide Tour events he can earn a start in. He gets access to the next event in Louisiana by virtue of his top ten finish here and as he develops and matures there is every reason to believe Chris Downes will become a very successful player.

Palmer is a charismatic, likeable and adventurous character, who has the capacity to score from all over the place. He made several birdies and great par saves from some rather interesting positions over the weekend and that is the type of talent that players like Garcia, Ballesteros and others have. Although he has won several times on minor tours, winning on this level is quite new to him. The way he handled himself in the heat of the battle suggests that many more will come his way. Don’t be surprised if Ryan Palmer becomes a big star of the game.

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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.


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