Improved putting helps Palmer into share of Memphis lead

Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:30pm EDT
 
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(Reuters) - American Ryan Palmer, benefiting from extra work on his putting, produced bogey-free golf to charge into a three-way tie for the lead in the opening round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis on Thursday.

Bidding for a fourth victory on the PGA Tour, the 38-year-old Texan piled up six birdies as he carded a six-under-par 64 at the TPC Southwind in the final event before next week's U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.

Also at six under were fellow American Brooks Koepka, who finished birdie-birdie, and veteran Englishman Greg Owen, who competed on the lower-tier Web.com Tour last season.

American Scott Brown, Australian Steven Alker, Briton Brian Davis and South African Richard Sterne lurk one back.

Fan favorite Phil Mickelson, a five-times major winner who will head to Chambers Bay searching for a first U.S. Open win after posting a record six runner-up spots in his national championship, returned a satisfying 68.

"I definitely putted well, thanks to the work I put in this morning," Palmer, whose most recent PGA Tour victory came at the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii, told reporters after shooting the best round in the afternoon wave.

"I came out and spent about half an hour working on the speed of the greens and finally felt my comfort over the putter, the ball position I like.

"I had to get up and down a few times so it's nice when you make some tough pars to keep a round going like that."

Left-hander Mickelson was encouraged by what he described as "a good, solid round" that included four birdies on his outward nine followed by two bogeys after the turn.   Continued...

 
Ryan Palmer of the U.S. hits a driver off the second tee during second round play of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 10, 2015.   REUTERS/Mark Blinch