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Thursday, May 15, 2014
Teamwork paying off for Ryan Palmer

By Richard Durrett
ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Ryan Palmer sure knows how to break up the grind of playing most weeks on the PGA Tour.

On Thursday, the Colleyville, Texas, resident continued a tradition that is now entering its fourth year: He let his caddie, James Edmondson, pick every club and followed his every instruction.

"It was totally up to him," Palmer said. "I just did the swinging."

Ryan Palmer and James Edmondson
Ryan Palmer opened with a 67 under the guidance of caddie James Edmondson.

The formula worked in the opening round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship, as Palmer shot a 3-under 67, tying him with seven others for fifth on the leaderboard, two shots behind Peter Hanson.

Palmer said the idea came to him when he made just one of seven cuts a few years back, but it didn't really stick until the 2011 stop at the home of the Nelson, TPC Four Seasons Resort and Club Las Colinas. That year, with Edmondson doing the strategic work, Palmer finished second, losing out to Keegan Bradley in a playoff.

Since implementing his unusual plan, Palmer has made the cut every year at the Nelson and has shot par or better in eight out of 13 rounds, with two top-10 finishes. Palmer credits the fact that Edmondson fades the ball as giving him better sight lines to the course, making him a great guide.

For 37-year-old Edmondson, the Nelson is the only tournament each year where he enjoys final say. Palmer said they tried it in another event, "and that lasted about six holes."

Edmondson and Palmer disagreed on just one shot Thursday. Palmer's ball was in the rough on the par-4 sixth, and he wasn't sure whether the club Edmondson pulled was the right one. It wasn't.

"I drove the car off the cliff," Edmondson said. "But he was still in the car with me."

Player and caddie have been in that car together for 12 years, a rarity on the PGA Tour. Edmondson said he can count on one hand the number of verbal disagreements the two have had on or off the course.

"I have more arguments with my wife," Edmondson said.

The caddie was selling software for a real estate company in Las Vegas in 2002 when Palmer, a buddy he knew from the mini-tours, called and asked him to join him for PGA Tour qualifying school. Palmer got his card for what was then called the Nationwide Tour, won a tournament early in his first season and has managed to keep his PGA Tour card ever since. And Edmondson has been the guy on the bag, too.

"He's a former player, and that makes the difference," said Palmer, who is 29th in the FedEx Cup standings with four top-10 finishes this season. "Some guys get out here [on Tour] and get a veteran caddie and end up running through six of them. My advice is to pick a friend that plays and have fun."

That's what the duo is doing. And the two were hoping to add even more spice to the week by playing a few rounds with former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Palmer, a former Aggie, had a charity event in College Station, and Manziel was scheduled to join him. But the quarterback had to back out because of commitments with the Cleveland Browns, who drafted him at No. 22 last Thursday.

The plan was for Manziel to then play with Palmer in Wednesday's Pro-Am, but the quarterback is in Cleveland all week. Palmer has never met Manziel, but he asked his agent to put something together because he thought it would be enjoyable.

"It was going to be a chance to get to know him myself," Palmer said. "You read about him, but that's not the same thing. It was awesome watching him play. Maybe I'll get a chance down the road."

He might also get a chance to get back into contention at one of two tournaments he and Edmondson consider hometown events. Palmer lives in Colleyville, a suburb of Dallas, and Edmonson lives in North Richland Hills, not far from Fort Worth. Both are members at Colonial, where they share the course record of 62. Between the two of them, they've played Colonial more than 300 times.

"I could play it blindfolded," Palmer said. "Sometimes I don't even look at the yardages."

He didn't look at them at the Nelson on Thursday, either, and that worked out pretty well.

"I putted better, and that's what I need to do," said Palmer, who has three wins in his 11-year PGA Tour career. "I'm playing well. I just have to keep it going. We have to keep it going."

Exactly. This one is as much on Edmondson as it is on Palmer. And that's how the duo likes it.