Doubleheader for Palmer’s caddie: Match Play and Four-Ball

SAN FRANCISCO — There are two sets of golf clubs in James Edmondson’s care this week. Those that belong to his boss, Ryan Palmer, and those that belong to him.

How frequently and seriously he uses the latter depends on the former, but the veteran PGA Tour caddie doesn’t view his situation as a dilemma as much as a win-win.

“It will be interesting no matter what happens,” Edmondson said. “I could be worn out, but it’s all good.”

An impressive player in his own right, Edmondson, 38, played collegiately at Houston and has caddied for years for one of his best friends, Palmer. But he has never stopped playing the game competitively when possible (he’s a four-time club champion at famed Colonial, near his home in Fort Worth, Texas, and he has qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship). When the USGA announced two years ago that it would debut a national four-ball championship in 2015, he pounced.

“I called Zach (Atkinson) and said, ‘I’m locking you in, partner.’ “

Atkinson’s response? “Let’s do it,” he said. “Let’s give it a shot.”

Chances are, neither one envisioned the conflict that would arise, but now that it’s here, both are taking it in stride. They shot a 65 at Stonebridge Ranch in McKinney, Texas, last August to qualify, but at the time there didn’t seem to be any possible conflict with the PGA Tour schedule.

Then things changed. First, the PGA Tour announced that its WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, usually in February, would be pushed back to April 29-May 3. Then, Palmer played well through the summer and fall, and continued this spring to nail down just his second spot in the Match Play.

Next thing he knew, Edmondson had two reasons to be in San Francisco on the same week: Caddie duties at the WGC at Harding Park, and a competitive challenge at the first USGA Four-Ball Championship across the lake at The Olympic Club.

So much golf, so little time?

Edmondson offered a smile, but then explained that in his mind there is no problem. “My focus is obviously on Ryan and the Match Play,” he said. “It’s my job, and it goes without saying.”

It also comes with Atkinson’s stamp of approval, even while knowing he could play as a one-man team.

“I don’t blame him one bit. It’s his job, his income,” said Atkinson, 32, who played collegiately at North Texas. “I support him 100 percent. I’d do the same thing.”

An electronics instructor in the Dallas area, Atkinson was going to fly to San Francisco on Wednesday night and be at The Olympic Club for practice rounds Thursday and Friday on the Lake and Ocean courses. Knowing already that Palmer has a Thursday morning match against Marc Leishman, Edmondson said he would try and get over to join Atkinson for some practice that afternoon. Then, Friday morning, Edmondson figures he can practice again with Atkinson and be back for work Friday afternoon when Palmer plays Justin Rose.

“Ryan knows all about it but hasn’t said much,” Edmondson said. “We both know we have jobs, and this is a big tournament.”

Should Palmer advance to the Round of 16 as winner of Group 6, Edmondson would be working at Harding Park; Atkinson, meanwhile, would be teeing it up at 8 a.m. on the Lake Course, playing without a partner. Ditto Sunday if Palmer still were to be in the hunt.

Atkinson and Edmondson said they would advise the USGA of the possibility, but again, neither one is complaining.

“However it shakes out will be fine,” Atkinson said. “James has got his priorities straight.”

And he’s got good care on two sets of clubs.

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