Chambers Bay and the 2015 US Open will be remembered for many things, that three putt and those greens, but for Jason Palmer it represented his last full start.
The Kirby Muxloe star, who was in his rookie season on the European Tour and who had come through qualifying at Walton Heath to play in his first major, gave a very respectable account of himself missing the cut by just four shots. After seven holes he was six over, he finished the 36 holes at plus nine.
The following week in Germany he opened with an 81 but then had to withdraw. And that was the last time that the rookie played a competitive round, he has barely managed a social 18 in the interim.
You might have noticed from the image above that Palmer does things a little differently around the greens. He chips one handed due to the fact that he has been through a rather debilitating period of the chyips i.e he couldn’t chip a golf ball.
“At one point I wouldn’t practise because if anyone else was near the vicinity of the chipping green I could wipe them out. I was a hazard to my fellow golfers. If I did practise it would be in solitude.
“I switched to one handed in the early part of the 2010 season, my first year as a pro. My friend Neil Chaudhuri and I were having a little pitching competition on the Alps Tour, I was shot and was at rock bottom. I was hitting 14 greens and making bogeys and doubles on the other four. He convinced me to go one handed.”
You would like Palmer a lot, he might be the most self-deprecating golfer to play on the European Tour and he’s funny. His Twitter feed is well worth a follow.
This week he informed us: ‘A potentially momentous day as I have posted my application to be a contestant on Countdown.’
And he’s good. While checking a couple of facts over a text I sent him a conundrum ‘ALTERINGS’ and within a few seconds three dots appeared on my phone with the correct answer*.
His Twitter feed, sadly, is also a log of the numerous injury setbacks since June 2015, not that he is one to feel sorry for himself.
When did the injury first start to show itself?
To start with it was the wrist at the top of my backswing and then into impact – it flared up after US Open qualifying at Walton Heath so I had it X-rayed and there was nothing broken. The doctor said I would be fine to play at Chambers Bay so I dosed myself up on painkillers and Ibuprofen and I’m so glad that I did as I might never play golf again, let alone a major.
What happened after the withdrawal in Germany?
He said to rest four to six weeks but it was my first year on the European Tour. I rested for three weeks, and there was no improvement, so I had a cortisone, which they had suggested, to try and speed up the healing process.
That took away the wrist pain but I then started having so many problems with my left thumb – I would get a shooting pain at the top of my backswing and it made me want to let go of the club. And it has stayed like that for the last two years despite various injections.
And since then it seems to have been a case of one step forward and three steps back?
I had an operation in January which was more exploratory, they put a camera down there and he found a lot of stuff in my STT
(scaphotrapezotrapezoidal) joint. He cleared that all out and he seemed to think that had all been a big success.
It then felt worse than ever for the next three months, I had to get my girlfriend to squeeze the toothpaste. The healing process should have been 4-6 weeks but I was really struggling months later.
It has been pretty bleak at times. It is just a massive void in your life. I would try and keep fit and practise my putting but that still leaves a lot of hours to fill.
I love watching horse racing as it’s on all the time, and I watch Countdown, but eventually you need to do something.
In 2016 you caddied for Charlie Ford, what was that like?
We did from June to the end of the season and that was brilliant. I’ve known Charlie since I was a schoolboy, we went to the same college, were in the same maths class and football team and we were both members at Kirby Muxloe.
We have very different games so it was quite hard to get used to how far he hits it but, once I got used to that, we were pretty successful. He was solid as a rock with so many top-20 finishes but you need top 5s on the Challenge Tour.
Charlie wants quite a lot from a caddie, he likes your input whereas I just want to get on with it and have someone to talk to and help control my mood. Charlie wants you to get involved and, because he knows that I can play the game, then he maybe had some trust in me.
Maybe I passed on some wisdom, he’s just got his European Tour card so I’m buzzing for him.
And this year you’ve been back out on Tour in a different role?
Golf is the only thing I know really, even going back I studied Applied Golf Management Studies at Birmingham so it would seem odd to have a career in anything different.
By May I had then given up hope of playing so I got a job with Dion Stevens on the European Tour working on the green scanning, Dion did the course planners and he now also did this and I would collect the data. It was hectic, you are travelling everywhere with four bags and I wasn’t at home very often. I moved in with my girlfriend in June and I was hardly there. I would also help Jeff Collington with the green scanning on the LET.
How close have you got back to anything like full fitness?
In the middle of this year I went out for nine holes at Kirby Muxloe and it felt great – I could go at it at 100 per cent so I thought this was it. In October I played a bit more and initially it was fine but the more I played the more it flared up.
In the most recent X-rays a fortnight ago it showed a lot of inflammation and the diagnosis is now arthritis so I’ve just had a durolane injection. Most of the reviews online are from older patients for their.
So far it feels terrible but they said the worse the pain initially the better the long-term results. But at least now we have a definitive diagnosis. I have gone through getting my hopes up so I am now almost resigned to never feeling 100 per cent but it would be nice to pick up a club and feel pain free.
Where would you stand exemption wise if you were to make it back?
I played 19 times on the European Tour in 2015 – and the average number of starts from the top 110 was 24 – so I would get five starts next year.
The European Tour have been extremely patient and understanding and they know I am genuinely injured but I have to take them in 2018 or it runs out.
And after the five starts they will re-assess where I would have finished on the rankings and I would get a new category so, even if I completely bombed and missed every cut, I should still have something on the Challenge Tour.
I’ve been in this boat for the past two years and I’ve paid the money to take the exemption but I’ve never got round to playing. It’s now or never so I think I will take these starts, no matter what the pain is, as it’s got to be worth a shot. We’re in the last-chance saloon now.
What did you make of Chambers Bay?
Although it was a monster it was burnt out so it didn’t play its full length. I’m a very short hitter and in the second round we played four par 4s over 500 yards on the trot so that would never suit my game. But there was always somewhere that you could feed it in from and it grew on me.
In the practice round I played with Andy Sullivan and Luke Donald and at the 10th you we couldn’t tell where the fairway stopped and the green started. They ended up having to put some white dots down.
How did the American fans take to you chipping one handed?
The crowds were amazing and so positive. They were really good fun, I’m sure I took a few people by surprise chipping one-handed in a major, but they were very supportive. A few guys said that if we were playing in New York then they might not have been as forgiving!
I played well on the Friday and probably should have shot under par so I proved to myself that I wasn’t that far away.
Without wishing to state the obvious all of this couldn’t have come at a worse time. Having overcome the chipping yips you played your way on to the European Tour and your season was ended in June?
It really is Sod’s law, if it had happened while I was at the bottom of the game then it wouldn’t have affected me as much and I could let go a bit easier. But I have now tasted success and it’s really, really hard to let it go. So, while there is a glimmer of hope, I’m exploring all avenues as I love it so much – and I know I can be competitive and make a living. But I can’t do any of that as I can’t grip the club.
The timing has been a real stinker but at least I got there and that looked a long way away when I decided to chip one handed.
If I don’t get to experience it again then I will have had a better run than most.
Finishing on a positive how good are you at Countdown?
The letters would be my strength though I can hold my own with the numbers. I can get some of the conundrums, you either get it straightaway or you don’t get it.
There are all sorts of auditions across the country and I’ll hopefully go to one in Nottingham which is where I now live. I always watched it as a kid growing up, I can usually beat more than 50 per cent of the people who get on there.