"CHASING 59" with Ryan Palmer

DEAN & DELUCA Tour Report Athlete Interview


For Ryan Palmer, this is a special week on the PGA TOUR. In addition to Colonial Country Club being located in his home state of Texas, Ryan is also a proud member of the club.


Ryan spends a significant amount of his time off playing practice rounds at Colonial and has accumulated hundreds of rounds in the process. He knows the subtleties of the greens, he knows how it plays in every kind of wind, and he knows how to attack each hole. Naturally, this is a course where Ryan feels very comfortable.


However, ahead of his run this week at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational, we caught up with the 3-time PGA TOUR champion to talk about a time where he was, perhaps, outside of his comfort zone…



In the second round of the 2015 Humana Challenge, you were within reach of shooting golf’s elusive score of 59. At what point did 59 start creeping into your head that day?


Ryan Palmer: “It was a crazy day. I teed off on the back nine and started 10-under through 10 holes. It was just one of those days where I was making putts from off the green, hitting it close from everywhere—it was one of those zones you get that you can't really explain.


It's just a different comfort level that you're in, knowing that you're not going to miss a shot and that you're going to make every putt. But it's almost inevitable that you're going to start thinking about your score too much and make a couple bogeys coming in...


I ended up shooting 61, but it was one of those special days of golf that I’ll always remember.”


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When you have 59 on your mind, does your game plan change at all?


RP: “When you're going low like that, you may start thinking about it too much and start to get a little tentative with your shots, but as far as how you're going to attack the golf course, it doesn't change. It's just a matter of executing. A lot of guys end up missing that low number because they start getting tight or overthinking things instead of just letting it go like you had been all day. But it's a pretty cool feeling when you're in that moment.”



When you were in that situation, what did you do to stay focused?


RP: “When I get off to a hot start, I just try to stay relaxed. I just tell myself to believe in what I'm doing—clearly, what I had been doing was working, so it was just a matter of staying in the moment and not getting too far ahead of myself.


You can't start thinking about upcoming birdie holes, you need to focus on one shot at a time. If you're in a situation where you could break a record or beat a personal score, you must already be playing well, so if you can just stay in the moment and rely on the talent that got you there in the first place, you have a good chance of salvaging that low round.”



After making par on the first two holes, you went 10-under in the next 8 holes. What was that lights-out run like for you?


RP: “I can't explain it. It mostly came down to giving myself wedges into the greens and hitting a lot of shots close to the pin. It was in Palm Springs at PGA WEST, so there was no wind and the greens were perfect. I was hitting shots close and dropping eagle putts from off the green. When you get in that moment the holes begin to look big, the fairways seem wider, you feel like you can hit any green and stick any pin... you're invincible. Those moments don't come around very often.”




Golf is a tough game on its own. What makes breaking 60 that much harder?


RP: “There's a reason it's only been done a few times. Jim Furyk did it last year with 58 and Justin Thomas earlier this season with 59, but it's just something that gets into your mind—that 59 number that you're always trying to shoot. Before Jim's round, 59 was the lowest in Tour history... you're talking about 12 or 13 under par in a round of golf. It's not easy to do. 


Everything has to go your way SO often during your round to break 60. Then as soon as you get too loose and make a bogey, well, there goes your chance at 59.” 



When a player shoots a 59 on a par-70 course—or a 58 as Jim Furyk did—do you think that detracts from the accomplishment at all?


RP:I don't think it takes away from it at all. You have two less par 5s, which makes it an even tougher golf course. It's just as good as going out and shooting -13 on a par 72. When you have less par 5s, it is even tougher to shoot a low score.” 



Your 61 was still an incredible round and set a birdie-eagle streak record, but looking back, how important would it have been for you to have shot 59?


RP: “Shooting 59 would've been memorable for sure. It would've been in the history books…


But we're out there to win the golf tournament. Obviously, shooting 61 put me in a good spot to try and win that week, but I'm not going out every round trying to shoot that number. My goal is to be in contention on Sunday late in the day. To do that, you need to play well every day. If you get that one low round, it's nice, but I'm not going out to the course playing to shoot 59.”



What advice do you have for other Tour players within reach of 59 or amateurs on pace for a personal best score?


RP: “Just let it come to you. You can't force the issue or get too wrapped up in the score you're shooting. Just play your game, play to your strengths, stay relaxed, stay focused—it's the old cliché of "one shot at a time." 



Chris Edwards
Copywriter — TaylorMade Golf