Earlier this year Ryan Palmer stayed at a buddy's house in Orlando during the Bay Hill Invitational. After Chad Campbell, a mutual friend, won the tournament, the victory party was held at the house. During last week's Funai Classic, Palmer flopped at the same place, and in a performance reminiscent of Campbell's title-clinching 61 at the 2003 Tour Championship, Palmer fired a bogey-free, 10-under-par 62 in the final round to win for the first time on the PGA Tour.
The connections to Campbell don't end there. Like Campbell a year ago, the 28-year-old Palmer is a fearless player from West Texas who's largely unknown outside Tour circles. In fact the two (and their caddies) played high school golf in the same conference and have been friends for years. "He goes at a lot of pins too," Palmer says of their similarities. "We also took the same route to get here."
That route has been the traditional path to the Tour--slowly working one's way up through lesser levels of competition. Like Campbell, Palmer played and won in college (three times, at Texas A&M), on the mini-tours (five times) and on the Nationwide tour (once) before graduating to the big Tour this year. "I've been through it," Palmer says. "I've won on every level, so I knew I could come in here and do it."
This old school approach has fallen from favor since the meteoric rise of Tiger Woods, after which golf became obsessed with finding the next young phenom (from Sergio García and Adam Scott to Charles Howell and Ty Tryon).
Palmer, though, is happy to follow Campbell's footsteps. "I love being talked about in the same breath as him," Palmer says. He must be thrilled then that they'll be compared in another way: Palmer's victory party was to take place in the same house as Campbell's Bay Hill soiree. "For [Campbell's] party we bought all the beer at the Hess gas station," says Palmer's caddie, James Edmondson. "Tonight we're going to empty that Hess station again."
If Isabelle Beisiegel could compete, her efforts as the first woman to play at PGA Tour Q school would be seen as more than a stunt.
Up & Down
A week after winning by eight, he comes from behind to take the Schwab Cup Championship.
Ernie Schmernie. The last full-field event of the year features six of the world's top nine players.
Nicklaus and Altace
The Bear promotes this cardiovascular drug through his Heart and Stroke Challenge.
He's in first after 54 for the third straight tournament but can't close the deal in a single one.
As his dispute with the Tour heats up, Els pulls out of the Chrysler with a sudden hand injury.
Nicklaus and Vioxx
Jack has no ties to the troubled painkiller, as erroneously reported in the Oct. 11 SI.
ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES (PALMER)
Palmer, 28, had won at every level before reaching the Tour, same as Campbell.
ROBERT BINDER (MCNULTY)
AL MESSERSCHMIDT/WIREIMAGE.COM (LEHMAN)
WARREN LITTLE/GETTY IMAGES (ELS)
SCOTT HALLERAN/GETTY IMAGES (NICKLAUS)