Palmer edges clear as night ends play

Ryan Palmer has snatched the lead from Webb Simpson in Thursday’s suspended 1st round of the Phoenix Open.

It was almost dark when late finisher Ryan Palmer snatched a one-shot lead from Webb Simpson in Thursday’s first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

But 42 players were still out on the course when an early-morning frost-delay caused the opening round at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona to be suspended by the onset of nightfall.

And with at least three players well within range of the 7-under par 64 target set by Palmer, his first round lead and Simpson’s second place, for that matter, are anything but done and dusted.

Bubba Watson and Spencer Levin are lurking two shots back at 5-under with three holes still to play and so is Jason Dufner who is on the same mark after 13 holes.

Palmer, who shot 32s on each loop, making eight birdies as against a lone bogey, overhauled Simpson, who had grabbed the early clubhouse lead with a 6-under 65, with a sparkling spell of three consecutive birdies from his 14th hole before sinking his final putt for par just before the horn was sounded to end play for the day at around 8pm local time.

“Probably during my last three or four holes you could tell it (the darkness) was getting closer and closer so I was trying not to worry about it,” Palmer said afterwards.

“I knew I was going to be here in the morning for the second round, so I wasn’t worried about if we had to come back and restart. So I just kept hitting shots and sticking to my game plan.

“For the last putt it was a little dark I can say, but I’m glad to be done, and now I can get going in tomorrow’s routine. Instead of getting ready for one hole, I can get ready for the whole day. It’s going to be a nice night.”

Tied for third behind Simpson, along with the still-to-finish Watson, Levin and Dufner, was an eight-strong group who shot 5-under 66s featuring Derek Lamely, Kevin Na, Chez Reavie and Harrison Frazar with Australian Jarrod Lyle, one of only two foreigners on the American-dominated leaderboard.

South African Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters champion, opened with a 67.

Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard were both three under while England’s Ian Poulter was at level par after 15 holes.

Earlier it was Simpson’s red-hot putter that had rocketed him into contention

He sank several putts from between 12 and 15 feet on the way to his 6-under-par 65 in relatively calm conditions at the TPC Scottsdale.

The 26-year-old mixed seven birdies with a lone bogey at the par-four sixth to take a clubhouse lead he would hold until compatriot Ryan Palmer snatched it away in fading light

Simpson, who posted a career-best season on the PGA Tour last year when he finished it with two victories and second place behind Luke Donald on the US money list, was delighted with his play and his putting especially.

“The thing what kind of held me in there all day was my putting,” he said after needing only 27 putts. “I made a bunch of putts, so I’m excited about that. The one on 17 was the longest, maybe 20, 25 feet.”

Simpson, who teed off on the back nine, found the magic in his putter early, shooting up the leaderboard with four consecutive birdies from the par-four 17th (his 8th).

“That kind of gave me a good jump start in the first round,” he said. “My only blemish was at number six. I really didn’t feel like I hit a bad shot, I hit a chip that released a lot more than I thought it would. Other than that, it was solid.”

Asked whether it felt strange being the highest-ranked player in the field, Simpson replied: “I’m getting used to it, but I don’t think about that stuff that much.

“I’m a believer that you can climb up as quickly as you can go down, so I don’t pay attention to it that much.”

Phil Mickelson, winner of the Phoenix Open in 1996 and 2005 but coming into this week’s event after missing the cut at last week’s Farmer Weekly in home town San Diego , also had a fine day with his putter.

He needed only 24 putts on his way to his four-birdie 68.

“I feel so good with it,” the American left-hander said. “It’s been a few years since the guys out here have seen me putt like this.

“I’m looking forward to continuing this streak and hopefully getting in contention for the weekend because I feel really confident on the greens.”

American world number nine Dustin Johnson and compatriot Keegan Bradley, winner of last year’s PGA Championship, also started out with 68s.