A Quick 9: Ryan PalmerRyan Palmer returns to Disney World this week to defend his 2004 FUNAI Classic crown. Find out why he was so calm coming down the stretch last year, and more, in a Quick 9.
Ryan Palmer won last year's FUNAI Classic as a rookie, his first victory on the PGA TOUR, thanks to a sizzling final round 10-under par 62, holding off then-number one golfer in the world Vijay Singh by three strokes. We sat down with him recently to find out more.
1. What jobs did you have before golf?
I worked at a plant with my dad, driving a forklift, for a couple of years. I think my dad used that as a way to teach me a lesson about setting goals and going after them. I was also a waiter for two weeks once. That didn't work out so well. I was spilling water on people and stuff. I've also had various jobs at golf courses, working on the range and in the pro shop.
2. When did you decide you wanted to make golf a career?
I was actually more in to basketball and football growing up. High School football is huge in Amarillo, especially West Texas, and I also played basketball through my sophomore year. Unfortunately as I got older, I seemed to get worse in both sports while everyone else got bigger and better! When I was told I would be on the varsity team but wouldn't play a whole lot, I decided to focus more on golf. When I started playing golf more seriously in high school, I decided I wanted to play golf in college. As a freshman at the University of North Texas, I won the Southland Conference individual title and our team won the team title. Then I transferred to Texas A&M and we won the Big 12 title my sophomore and junior years. I realized I was getting better and better and that is when it became a dream of mine to play professional golf and one day play on the PGA TOUR.
3. How has your life changed since winning the 2004 FUNAI Classic?
Professionally, in golf, the respect I've received from peers and knowing I'm part of an elite group of players who have won on the PGA TOUR is unbelievable. Personally, I hope it hasn't changed me much at all. I told my wife to keep me in line and she does a good job of that. The only thing I splurged on after I won was a GMC Denali. I always wanted a Tahoe, so after the win at Disney I retired the Montero Sport that I drove all over the Nationwide Tour.
4. Coming down the stretch last year at the FUNAI Classic, was that the most pressure you've ever faced on the golf course?
To me, there wasn't a lot of pressure because I was so far behind starting the final round and had to make so many birdies to win. When you're on fire like that, shooting 10-under, it almost seems easy. It's definitely not, but it just seems that way. There was more and more pressure as I got closer to the lead and starting thinking maybe this was my week. My drive on the 18th was probably one of the best shots of my life because of the situation I was in. That was definitely one of those times you feel like you're "in the zone." Everything I did seemed to work. It didn't matter where I hit it because I knew I was going to make the putt, or at least be close to making it. You feel like you're just hitting driver and wedge all day and you're putting it within five feet every time. You feel very relaxed, like nothing can go wrong out there. The most pressure I think I've felt was at this year's NEC Invitational - being in contention against such a tough field and on such a tough golf course (Ryan shot 72-68-67-69 to finish tied for 3rd, two strokes behind the winner).
5. What are some of your warm-up exercises?
I usually use the physical therapy trailer provided at each TOUR stop. I'll do some light exercises with the dumbbells and Swiss ball. I'll also ride the stationary bike for 10 minutes, and use the speed stick, which has been good for me, to loosen up before hitting the range. It's light, nothing too time consuming, but it loosens me up before I hit balls. I realize I need to get more into working out, but for me, it's more about building flexibility and avoiding injury than it is about getting bigger. Bigger isn't always better in golf, but avoiding injury is so important, especially in your back and shoulders. That's the key for me.
6. How did your experience on the Nationwide Tour prepare you for the PGA TOUR?
I wouldn't trade it for anything. I'd do it again if I could. If you can play a year on the Nationwide Tour prior to your first year on the PGA TOUR, it's more help than you can imagine. Some guys are reluctant to do it, but it really prepares you for the traveling and the competition. You're playing PGA TOUR winners out there, just with a few less people watching you. But if you can play well and win on the Nationwide Tour, it gives you confidence knowing you can compete against the best.
7. How do you stay motivated during such a long season?
I want to win. That's the bottom line. I want to be the best. To be the best you've got to beat the best and we're playing against the best every week on the PGA TOUR. I also set high goals for myself, focusing on finishing the year strong. I want to get to the Masters, the TOUR Championship, US Open, and obviously next year, the Ryder Cup. I'm near the top 15 right now, so that's my motivation for the next year. Playing in the Masters every year is a big goal for me, too.
8. What's your favorite Titleist club?
Right now, my 905S driver with a softer shaft. My driving has improved tremendously with it and when you're driving the ball well you're usually going to score well. All my clubs are great and it gives me confidence knowing I can perform with them. I've played the same irons the last two years, the Forged 690.CBs. I switched to them from the DCI 762s and they've been great. I've pretty much upgraded my Titleist irons every year since college, moving up to the newer model, and I've improved every year. I've had a lot of success with Titleist clubs and there's nothing better than having the best clubs in your bag, knowing you can perform well with them.
9.Do you have any superstitions? Any lucky rituals or items you keep in your pocket and/or golf bag?
I used to be bad about superstitions, but I'm getting much better. My wife Jennifer will tell you that if something doesn't go right the morning I play, like not getting a cup of coffee, I get a little antsy. I just try to stick with my routine, whatever's working. If I don't play well wearing a certain shirt, or a certain look, I won't go back to it for a while. I also try to use the same couple of ball markers every round and will never use yellow or orange tees.
Now a Quicker Nine . . .
Favorite TOUR stop: Wachovia's awesome and I love Pebble Beach and the Monterey Peninsula.
Favorite city: Chicago
Favorite band: Keith Urban
Favorite book: Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich
Favorite restaurant: Any PF Chang or Ruth's Chris
Favorite actress/actor: Vince Vaughn, Halle Berry
Favorite movie you've seen recently: Wedding Crashers
Favorite movie of all time: Tombstone, Harlem Nights, Dumb & Dumber, Smokey and the Bandit
Best moment on the golf course: Walking across the stage at the Nationwide Tour Championship and receiving my PGA TOUR card. Also being announced as the 2004 FUNAI Classic Champion.
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