Ryan Palmer will tee it up in his seventh U.S. Open Championship on Thursday with more than the usual first-tee nerves.
“I told my wife Jen how excited I was to go to the qualifier,” Palmer said. “I really had the itch to play in this U.S. Open. Now that I’m here I’m even more excited about it.”
The 40-year-old Palmer, a 1995 graduate of Amarillo High, learned Sunday night he made the field of 156 for the 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis.
“We thought we had a good chance all along of getting in,” said Palmer, who arrived at Erin on Sunday evening after taking a charter flight from the PGA tournament in Memphis.
Palmer is one of six players added to the U.S. Open field by way of qualifying sectionals a week ago.
The top 60 ranked golfers in the world automatically qualify for the U.S. Open. Three golfers in each of the 12 sectionals qualify, and Palmer was the first alternate at the Texas sectional played in Dallas.
The United States Golf Association set aside six spots for those who moved into the top 60 in the world ranking on Monday from play in tournaments last weekend.
Chris Wood of England stayed at No. 60 and was the only player who was not previously exempt. That meant five additional spots went to alternates from the 12 sectional qualifying sites.
The USGA has a formula to determine which sectional qualifying sites alternates are chosen, including strength of field at each site and how many spots were allocated.
“Ours was ranked fifth of the sectionals, so that’s why I thought we had a good chance,” Palmer said.
This will be Palmer’s 26th appearance in a major tournament, the most-ever majors played in by an Amarillo native.
His top major finish was a tie for fifth at the 2014 PGA Championship.
“The majors are different,” Palmer said. “We play a course set up we don’t normally see. It never gets old, so yeah, the excitement you have is on a different level.”
Palmer said he played his first nine holes at Erin Hills on Monday, and despite the belly-aching from other PGA pros on the length of the rough, Palmer said the set up is “very fair.”
“The course is in perfect shape,” Palmer said. “The greens are mint. If you hit it in the hay that fescue is tall. But you really have to hit a pretty bad tee shot to get there. It’s going to cost you a half shot if you hit there. I chopped a 9-iron out of it today and it’s pretty rough. But like I said, to reach the fescue that’s a bad hit way off line.”
Palmer said when Amarillo golf fans are watching this U.S. Open on TV starting Thursday, driving the ball will be a premium for the golfers — along with some kindness from the Golfing Gods.
“It’s a bomber’s golf course,” Palmer said. “And like always you need a lot of luck out there.”
Palmer first round tee is off is at 6:56 a.m. Thursday in a grouping with Shugo Imahira and Matthew Wallace. He said his preparation plans include playing nine holes today and nine holes Wednesday.
“On this course, you need to learn the areas to hit it to on each hole,” Palmer said. “You have to stay away from the small pot bunkers and avoid getting in those. But from what I saw (Monday) the holes look good to me. I’ve been driving the ball well. so I will need to do that. If I make a few putts, I really believe we have a chance for a good week.”
It’s already starting off good for Palmer with that invite to the U.S. Open.