Ryan Palmer, after two rounds of the Honda Classic, is in the enviable position of holding a share of the lead.
That’s certainly important to Palmer, but forgive him if golf is not the main thing on his mind these days.
There are priorities in life, and Palmer’s priority right now is his wife, Jennifer, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in July and then underwent surgery followed by both chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
“She’s five radiations away from being done with all that,” Palmer said.
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Palmer’s round of 65 on Friday put him at 9-under-par 131 for the tournament after a 66 on Thursday on the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. Joining Palmer atop the leaderboard was first-day co-leader Wesley Bryan, who shot 64-67.
Since learning of his wife’s illness, Palmer’s golf schedule has been a make-it-up-as-you-go situation.
“Spent the whole fall going through all her chemo treatments,” said Palmer, 40. “I was home. I watched a few tournaments. There were times when she said I should have gone and play … but there’s no way I could have played golf.”
Instead, he gladly opted to stay home and take care of the kids, Maddy, 10, and Mason, 7.
“Enjoyed the time at home,” he said of being with his family, “but it was also a lot of hard times for sure.”
Palmer admits that being back on tour can be a relief, providing some distraction from all the worry and concern swirling in his head.
“When you get inside the ropes, everything kind of goes away,” he revealed. “It helps. Makes golf less aggravating at times. You realize it’s just a game we’re playing but it is what I do. I love to play the game of golf but also there are a lot of things going on.”
Palmer was an unlikely person to move into the lead at Honda since in his last five PGA Tour starts he missed the cut four times and finished 49 th in the other tournament.
In addition, The Honda Classic has provided him with one definitely unpleasant memory. In 2014, Palmer — no relation to Arnie — lost in a four-way playoff. That wasn’t the worst of it. He could have won that year’s Honda title in regulation but missed a five-foot putt on his final hole, thus forcing the playoff.
Of his round Saturday, which included seven birdies and two bogeys, Palmer said, “I’m hitting the ball well, and now that I’m comfortable with my putter and feeling good about it, that makes for a more enjoyable round.”
Bryan, at age 26, is a rookie on the PGA Tour after coming off an impressive three-win season last year on the Web.com Tour. He moved into a tie for the lead with Palmer by dead-centering a 10 1/2-foot birdie putt on his final hole, the 556-yard par-5 18th.
“Guys are good out there,” Bryan said of his new PGA Tour competition. “They don’t stop making birdies, so I’ve got to make sure I keep my foot on the gas pedal.”
Trailing the two leaders by a stroke was some name-power in Rickie Fowler, who had a 132 total after rounds of 66 and is looking forward to the final two days.
“It’s going to be fun,” Fowler said. “I’m swinging well, putting has been good, good stroke and good speed. Looking forward to this weekend.”
Miamian Ryan Blaum will be playing the final two days after putting together rounds of 67 and 73, landing him right on the cutline of 140. Coming out of the scoring tent, he was asked, “Did you make the cut?”
“I think I’m good,” Blaum said.
He was right.