Ryan Palmer had to find a team-mate if he was going to get back to New Orleans, one of his favourite PGA Tour stops for reasons ranging from the food to his friendship with Saints coach Sean Payton.
Palmer’s past partner at the Zurich Classic team event, Jordan Spieth, had changed his schedule and was taking the week off, and Palmer knew Jon Rahm’s previous teammate, Wesley Bryan, couldn’t play because of shoulder surgery. So Palmer reached out to Rahm, unsure if a 24-year-old Spaniard wanted anything to do with a Texan nearly two decades his senior.
The odd couple from different continents and generations combined for a 3-under 69 in the alternate-shot final round Sunday to win the tour’s only team event by three strokes over Sergio Garcia and Tommy Fleetwood.
“I shot him a text, hoping he would bite,” Palmer recalled.
When a 42-year-old player is calling him, he’s probably like, ‘Why does he want to play with me?’ But he accepted and what an awesome week.
Rahm took his third PGA Tour victory — one each in his first three seasons.
“When Wesley told me he was having shoulder surgery a few months before the event, I was in no-man’s land,” Rahm recalled.
“I’m really happy I said yes (to Palmer’s proposal to team-up),” Rahm continued. “I can say to Jordan and Wesley: ‘Sorry, we already have a partner for next year.’”
Palmer-Rahm finished at 26-under 262 at the TPC Louisiana, which had dried out considerably since heavy rain delayed the first round by more than seven hours and forced many players to play more than 18 holes on Friday and Saturday to get the event back on schedule.
Opening the final round tied atop the leaderboard with Scott Stallings and Trey Mullinax, Palmer and Rahm surged to a two-stroke lead in just two holes after Scott Stallings and Trey Mullinax bogeyed the first hole and Rahm nearly holed out from the fringe to set up Palmer’s 1-foot birdie putt on the par-5 second.
Palmer and Rahm never lost the lead after that, making birdies on 13 and 14 at virtually the same time Garcia and Fleetwood were making birdies on 17 and 18 — highlighted by Garcia’s 29-foot birdie putt in front of the grandstand on 17.
The winners each took home $1.05m (€929,000) , moving Rahm up to nearly $3.1m this season and Palmer to about $2.3m. The teams of Kyoung-Hoon Lee-Matt Every and Brian Gay-Rory Sabbatini tied for third, five shots behind.
Four teams tied for fifth at 20 under, including West Waterford’s Seamus Power and his partner David Hearn, from Canada, who won more than $163,000, after a closing round of 68. Power will be hoping to build on positive results in the past two weeks as he moves on to the Wells Fargo championship this week.
Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson had a disappointing final round of 73 to drop to a tie for 18th on 17 under.