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Palmer leads Byron Nelson

2012-05-18 06:56

Texas - American Ryan Palmer fired a bogey-free six-under par 64 on Thursday to seize a one-shot lead over German Alex Cejka and Australian Mark Leishman after round one of the Byron Nelson Championship.

Palmer lost last year's Nelson title in a playoff to countryman Keegan Bradley. Palmer birdied the last hole to force a playoff but found water on the first extra hole and lost the $6.5 million PGA Tour event at TPC Four Seasons.

Palmer began off the 10th tee. He birdied the par-4 11th, had back-to-back birdies at the par-4 15th and par-5 16th and hit back-to-back birdies again at the par-3 second and par-4 third. He added another at the par-3 fifth.

"It's great to be in this spot again," Palmer said.

"Continuation from last year, that's what's cool about the whole thing. I knew everything was going in the right direction. It was a matter of putting it all together at once."

Palmer was disappointed at hooked tee shots on his last four holes but salvaged pars on them all.

"That's what the short game is there for and fortunately it was good," said Palmer.

Leishman had back-to-back birdies at the par-5 seventh and par-4 eighth but capped the front nine with his lone bogey of the day. His big jump up the leaderboard came on "awesome" eagles at the par-4 11th and par-5 16th.

"On 11, I was trying to drive it up toward the right bunker, pulled it a little bit, right in front of the green about 10-foot off the edge, easy chip, (30-feet) down grain," Leishman said.

"On 16, I think about 245 (yards), hit a 2-iron to about 8 feet, easy putt, straight up, rolled that in and it was a good day."

Leishman has not cracked the top 15 in 11 PGA starts this season, his best result a share of 17th at Riviera in February.

"I drove the ball a lot better than I have been. I think I only missed two or three fairways," he said. "Haven't been hitting a lot of fairways this year so far. I drove it well and holed the par putts that kept the round going.

"I have actually felt like it's been there for about four or six weeks. It has been really close and I feel like I've been playing all right, just not getting a whole lot out of my game. I feel like I'm doing the right things."

Bogey-free Cejka closed strongly to share second, making a birdie at the par-3 fifth then making a run of four birdies in five holes starting at the par-3 13th and ending at the par-3 17th.

"I played pretty solid, kept the ball in the fairways and gave myself a lot of chances," Cejka said. "I had actually a good back nine, where I made a couple of good birdies, so I'm pleased with the start."

Matt Kuchar, last week's Players Championship winner, was among seven players sharing fourth on 66, two off the pace.

Bradley, who followed last year's Nelson triumph by winning his first major title three months later at the PGA Championship, was among 13 players on 67.

Leading scores on Thursday after the first round of the $6.5 million PGA Nyron Nelson Championship (USA unless noted, par 70):

64 - Ryan Palmer

65 - Marc Leishman (AUS), Alex Cejka (GER)

66 - Scott Piercy, Charley Hoffman, Bill Lunde, Blake Adams, Matt Kuchar, Dicky Pride, Andres Gonzales

67 - Greg Owen (GBR), Josh Teater, James Driscoll, Ricky Barnes, Jason Dufner, Tim Petrovic, Jhonattan Vegas (COL), Keegan Bradley, Pat Perez, Chris Riley, Ryuji Imada (JPN), Kevin Kisner, Todd Demsey

AFP