Ryan Palmer’s voice jumps to a faster pace when he starts talking about two things these days.
The first is his 11-year-old son Mason being part of a Dallas-based hockey team winning a tournament over Christmas break in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The second is teeing it up today at 11 a.m. (CST) in the Sony Open on the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
Although the PGA officially starts the 2018 season in the latter part of 2017, because of shoulder surgery last fall, this is the beginning of Palmer’s 2018 season, his 14th as a PGA Tour player.
Palmer had the surgery to remove bone spurs from a shoulder, the injury creeping into his day-to-day life activities as well as bothering his golf swing.
“The shoulder is good,” Palmer said. “I’ve been playing a lot this past week. We are full go and I’ve been out driver testing.”
The Amarillo High graduate is in a good way these days and has set goals for his 2018 season.
For starters he is close to moving into a new home he and his wife, Jennifer, had built not too far from his current home in Colleyville. Palmer said Jennifer is feeling terrific coming off her bout with breast cancer that included chemo treatments.
“So everything is good,” Palmer said. “I’m ready to go and have been working with Randy (Smith, Palmer’s swing coach).”
Palmer will start the year without a club contract — his choice — and on a major medical extension (MME).
The MME means Palmer needs to secure 30 FedEx Points in his opening six events to secure PGA Tour Card for the remainder of the 2018 season.
Palmer is confident those points will arrive during his schedule of playing four weeks in row starting with today’s Sony, then continuing on the West Coast swing with the CareerBuilder Challenge (Jan. 18-21), Farmers Insurance Open (Jan. 25-28) and the fan-favorite Waste Management Phoenix Open (Feb. 1-4).
Palmer sits down with a group he trusts like Smith and longtime caddie James Edmondson, and sets goals before each season. This year was no different.
“Of course, winning is always my No. 1 goal,” Palmer said. “But we came up with six goals.”
Palmer fans will likely see a new putter and putting grip from Palmer this year as he has been working on the claw grip.
So improved putting is among his six goals that follow:
1. Putting better
“I didn’t so much lose confidence in my putting, the results weren’t there. So Randy and I have worked on the putting and my goal is to finish in the top 30.”
2. Lock up is tour card
“Hopefully, I can get that done in the first couple events and secure my card for the year.”
3. Go head-to-head with a top 5 player
“That would be fun to test my game down the stretch against a top 5 player and give it what I got out there.”
4. Six top 10 finishes
“That’d be a good comeback for me. The PGA Tour doesn’t have a Comeback Player of the Year but I feel like six top-10 finishes would be kind of like that.”
5. Win the Zurich Classic with Jordan Spieth
“We are playing again this year (in the team format PGA event). That’d be awesome to win it with Jordan. We should have won it last year. That’s something fun for both of us.”
6. Get back to BMW Championship
“That’s the Tour Championship and if I could possibly get back there that would mean I had a good year.”
Palmer said it’s not necessarily a goal but burning down deep inside this year of Amarillo’s greatest and most accomplished golfer ever will these words.
“I want to prove to everybody I still got it this year,” Palmer said. “My shoulder feels better and hopefully that won’t be a problem. Jennifer is in a good way. We are moving into our new home next month. And Mason started the year of right for us winning his hockey tournament on Jan. 1.”