Ryan Palmer handed out signed golf balls wrapped in $10 bills to win the crowd at the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Thursday.
His play won fans over on the other 17 holes. Palmer fired a 7-under 64, including a birdie on the famous No. 16, to lead the hotly-contested tournament by one stroke after the first 18 holes.
The 38-year-old grad of Texas A&M had five birdies and an eagle 3 on No. 13. He has three PGA wins to his credit, the last one coming in 2010 at the Sony Open.
The trailing competition includes more than a few killers. Tied for second are Keegan Bradley and Bubba Watson. Bradley bogeyed No. 1, then put up three straight birdies to right the ship, while Watson, the defending Masters champion, bogeyed No. 2, then eagled the par-5 No. 3. On the back nine, he added five birdies in a seven-hole stretch.
The top eight spots are held down by Americans as a majority of the European Tour talent is busy at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic this weekend.
Of note is Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, tied for third at 4-under.
Fan favorite Phil Mickelson is tied for 29th after shooting a 2-under 69 on Thursday. Mickelson started off ugly, with a bogey on No. 10 and a double on No. 15 before making back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18 to hit the turn at +1. He had three more birdies on the front nine to dip under even par.