As he made his way around the back nine at Congaree Golf Club on Thursday morning, it felt like Bryson Nimmer’s opening round at the Palmetto Championship was hanging by a thread.
Much like his first round at the RBC Heritage in April, Nimmer seemed to be battling some nerves as he played in front of his hometown fans. He struggled to hit fairways and greens, opening with a bogey at the par-3 10th and fighting to grind out pars over the next four holes on a course that punishes golfers who miss their spots.
The former Hilton Head Christian Academy and Clemson University star looked especially shaky on the par-4 13th hole, pulling his tee shot left and barely avoiding the hazard, then leaving his approach in the greenside bunker with little green to work with.
His mother, Patsy, was a nervous wreck.
“I prayed hard for that one,” she said of the bunker shot.
Someone must have been listening, because Nimmer rolled the bunker blast within six inches of the cup for a beautiful par save, got up and down for another save on the par-3 14th, and hit a gorgeous shot from the fairway waste bunker to 20 feet for his first birdie at the par-4 15th, jumpstarting a hard-fought round of 3-under-par 68 to put him in a tie for 19th after the opening round of the one-off PGA Tour stop in Ridgeland.
Nimmer didn’t miss another fairway the rest of the way, his only hiccup coming at the par-4 8th, where his approach missed the green left and he slid an 11-footer past the cup to settle for bogey. After opening his first RBC Heritage with a disappointing 80, Thursday’s round was just what he needed to kickstart what could be a special weekend for a player who tends to get better as a tournament goes on. He followed up that lackluster debut at Harbour Town Golf Links with a blistering 68, and if he can match or better his first-round score Friday, he’ll be right in the mix going into the final 36 holes.
And that’s far from far-fetched.
The buzz among the large contingent of family and friends following Nimmer around Congaree on Thursday shifted as the day went on. The consensus was he went from being fortunate he wasn’t 3 or 4 shots over par early in his round to wondering what might have been had he converted solid birdie chances at the 16th, 18th, 3rd, and 5th after getting dialed in.
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Congaree held its own just fine on day 1, yielding 74 rounds of par or better compared with 82 rounds above par, but those who felt right at home in virtually uncharted waters proved there are birdies to be made, and Nimmer was solidly among that group.
Conditions might prove tougher for Nimmer on Friday, when he tees off at 2:05 p.m. on No. 1, but he will be starting on the front nine, where the vibes were decidedly good on day 1. It’s clear Nimmer thrives when he’s in his element — he was flashing smiles and traded at least one fist bump with a buddy in the gallery — and the hometown advantage is more valuable this week than any other on the PGA Tour with players navigating an unfamiliar course in an unconventional location.
Making the cut would have been a reasonable goal for Nimmer going into the week — this is only his fourth career PGA Tour event, after all — but if he gets off to a hot start Friday, something much more special could be in the cards.
Story and photos by Justin Jarrett