— Twelve months after losing a playoff for the Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas, Ryan Palmer had redemption on his mind after taking control of the tournament in Thursday’s opening round.
The 35-year-old American made the most of ideal scoring conditions at the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas, firing a flawless six-under-par 64 to grab a one-shot lead.
Australian Marc Leishman recorded a pair of eagles on his back nine to card a 65, ending a surprisingly calm day level with Germany’s Alex Cejka who posted a bogey-free round.
Americans Scott Piercy, Charley Hoffman, Bill Lunde and Matt Kuchar, the world No. 5 who won the Players Championship Sunday, were among a group of seven players knotted on 66.
Though Palmer struggled with his driving over the last four holes on the challenging layout, he was delighted to stay at the top of the leaderboard, largely thanks to his superb short game.
“I had big pull hooks on my last four tee shots and I fought my way in,” the Texan told reporters after making three birdies on each nine. “I kinda locked up on my tee shots, but that’s what the short game is there for, and fortunately it was good today. It’s great to be in this spot again.”
A three-time champion on the PGA Tour, Palmer was beaten by compatriot Keegan Bradley on the first extra hole of last years Byron Nelson Championship. This week, he is determined to respond in the best possible way.
Leishman, who is bidding for his first victory on the PGA Tour, chipped in to eagle the par-four 11th and holed an eight-foot eagle putt at the par-five 16th to rocket up the leaderboard.
Bradley launched his title defense with a 67 while American world No. 10 Phil Mickelson and former world No. 1 Ernie Els experienced mixed fortunes as they carded 70s.
Left-hander Mickelson offset two birdies with two birdies, including his final hole where his drive and approach shot each ended up in bunkers, while South African Els clawed his way back after a bogey-bogey start.Pettersen ousted
In New Jersey, defending champion Suzann Pettersen was ousted by England’s Jodi Ewart in the first round of the LPGA Match Play Championship Thursday, while World No. 1 Yani Tseng barely advanced.
Ewart, ranked 62nd, upset the third-ranked Norwegian 3 and 1. Fourth-ranked Ai Miyazato of Japan, another top seed in her quarter of the 64-woman field, also made a first-match exit, losing 2 up to Colombian Mariajo Uribe.
And Taiwan’s Tseng, who has already won three times this year, struggled to defeat South Korean Jeong Jang 1 up while World No. 2 Na Yeon Choi of South Korea outlasted compatriot Grace Park 2 up.
Friday’s second round will see Tseng face 33rd-ranked American Katie Futcher, who ousted South Korean Chella Choi 4 and 3, while Choi will next face World No. 31 South Korean Jenny Shin, who downed compatriot Jimin Kang 4 and 2.
Ewart will try to follow up on her upset of Pettersen by eliminating 30th-ranked Sophie Gustafson of Sweden, who beat England’s Karen Stupples 4 and 3, while Uribe, ranked 61st, faces a second-round match with 36th-ranked Australian Katherine Hull, a 3-and-2 winner over South Korean Song-Hee Kim.
Also among those losing in the first round was Michelle Wie, who fell 3 and 2 to fellow American Mina Harigae. — Agencies