EDISON, N.J. -- In his own way, Ryan Palmer already has won. He has held the shock, the grief, the tears at bay following the death last week of his father in a one-vehicle accident. He prevailed over his own sad thoughts by driving to the Plainfield Country Club for The Barclays every day and finding his haven on the course.
He also has put himself into contention to earn his fourth PGA Tour victory, which he thinks would be a fine tribute to the late Butch Palmer, 71.
"When I get inside the ropes, I get those four hours to not think a whole lot about it and try to play golf with some peace and comfort," the son said after he shot a 5-under-par 65 to finish the third round at 9 under, two strokes behind co-leaders Sang-Moon Bae and Jason Day. Those two men played together and very well Saturday, each shooting 63. They do have their own interesting stories -- Bae must soon put his career on hold for mandatory military service in South Korea and Day is coming off his first career major championship.
No one in the field, though, is carrying a burden like Palmer's. He has been forthright all week in talking about his father's death in an SUV on the Texas Panhandle on Tuesday of last week. The golfer has spoken about the way Butch, once a 6 handicap, taught him how to play and respect the game and how to act like a gentleman.
So perhaps it is no coincidence that the younger Palmer -- despite not having won since 2010 -- is one of the most popular players in pro-ams and corporate outings. Butch's son has been a gentleman even in this toughest of weeks. Saturday, he drew many cheers and chants from spectators who knew his situation.
"The nice thing about it is, every time somebody said something he put the thumbs up," said Ron Vincek, the volunteer walking scorekeeper with Palmer's twosome. Palmer gave one final thumbs-up on No. 18, when someone shouted, "God bless your dad!"
Palmer never considered taking the week off. He described his father as a tough-minded man who would have expected nothing less. The golfer, carrying Butch's money clip, has surprised himself with his own focus, having made seven birdies and shrugged off two bogeys (including one after a bad bounce left him an awful lie in a bunker on No. 16).
"I don't want this to happen ever again, but if I can keep my mind like this for four hours each day . . . The intensity has been there, but it's the concentration, the not letting the shots affect me. I'm always hard on myself but I've not made one comment on one shot, I think, the whole week," he said.
The hard part comes between rounds and, frankly, when he is behind a wheel. "It's creeped in my mind for sure. I mean, it can happen that fast," he said. "We're dealing with the pain as best we can."
He has talked to his mom, Gloria, every day and feels comfortable knowing that she is surrounded by family members at home. Ryan's wife, Jennifer, was to arrive in New Jersey last night to see the final round then join him in watching tennis for two days at the U.S. Open.
It helps that James Edmonson, his caddie and friend for 15 years, is encouraging him, literally, night and day.
"It's the elephant in the room, you know? I'm not going to ignore it," Edmonson said. "I was the first one at his house when his dad passed away last week so I've been through the whole thing. We're a family.
"It's pretty cool what he's doing right now, with the circumstance," the caddie said. "He's got nothing to lose. I don't know what to expect tomorrow, but I expect some really neat things."