MIAMI: With things looking up on the home front, where his wife is rebounding from cancer, Ryan Palmer is eyeing a reversal of fortunes at PGA National as well.
The 40-year-old US PGA Tour veteran produced seven birdies in a five-under par 65 on Friday (Saturday in Manila) to seize a share of the halfway lead at the Honda Classic alongside rookie Wesley Bryan.
Overnight co-leader Bryan burst out of the blocks with birdies at his first three holes en route to a three-under par 67.
The leaders were at nine-under par 131, one stroke in front of American Rickie Fowler, who carded his second straight 66.
Palmer has had his share of struggles on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where in nine prior starts he was a cumulative 38-over par through the tough three-hole stretch of 15, 16 and 17 known as the “Bear Trap.”
“It’s a daunting task, those three holes,” said Palmer, who this year has twice played them in even par.
On Friday he teed off on 10 and hit the trap running after birdies at 13 and 14, picking up another stroke at 15 before parring 16 and bogeying the 17th.
“You get out of there in even par, you’ve made ground on the field,” said Palmer, who went on to birdie four of his last nine holes to move atop the leaderboard.
“I’m hitting the ball well and now that I’m comfortable with my putter and feeling good about it, it makes for a more enjoyable round,” Palmer said.
Comfort on the greens has been slow to come since he took four months off late in 2016 to be at home with his wife, Jennifer, as she underwent treatment for breast cancer, and with their two young children.
He returned this year at the Sony Open, but missed four straight cuts before seeking help with his putting and finishing equal 49th at Riviera Country Club last week.
“Felt like it was the best putting I’ve done in a year and a half, and it’s carried over to this week,” said Palmer, who goes into the weekend in position to challenge for a fourth PGA Tour title, and his first since 2010.
Bryan, who shared the overnight lead with fellow rookie Cody Gribble, kept a share of the lead with a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-five 18th.
Fowler capped his round with back-to-back birdies, while Lahiri, after parring his first nine holes, had three birdies and one bogey coming in.
Taiwan’s C.T. Pan and Canadian Graham DeLaet shared fifth, both carding 68s for 134. Germany’s Martin Kaymer headed a group of four players on 135 that also included England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Americans Morgan Hoffmann and Scott Stallings.