|Ryan Palmer hits a tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz., Feb. 2, 2012. (CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/Getty Images/AFP)
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. - Ryan Palmer fired a seven-under 65 Thursday to grab a one-stroke lead with the first round of the Phoenix Open suspended due to darkness.
Palmer earned his third PGA Tour title at the 2010 Sony Open. However, he missed the cut at this event last year.
Webb Simpson, a two-time winner last year, carded a six-under 65 and is alone in second place. Harrison Frazar, Kevin Na, Chez Reavie, Derek Lamely and Jarrod Lyle are tied for third after posting five-under 66s.
They were joined there by Bubba Watson, Spencer Levin and Jason Dufner. Watson and Levin both finished 15 holes, while Dufner is through 13.
The start of the first round at TPC Scottsdale was delayed one hour by frost. The round was suspended by darkness at 8:05 p.m. (et) and will resume Friday 9:30 a.m. (et). The second round will start as scheduled at 9:30 a.m.
Palmer and Simpson both started their rounds on the back nine. Palmer poured in a 14-footer for birdie on the 10th. He birdied both par-fives, 13 and 15, to move to minus-three.
The 35-year-old dropped his approach within 10 feet at the 18th and converted that birdie effort to get within two of Simpson.
Palmer made it two in a row with a birdie on the first. A 13-foot birdie putt on the fourth gave Palmer a share of the lead. He followed with a 12-footer for birdie on five and made it three in a row with a 10-foot birdie effort on the No. 6.
That run of three straight birdies gave Palmer a two-stroke lead. His run ended on the seventh, where he tripped to a bogey to cut his margin to one. Palmer two-putted for par on the final two holes to cap his round.
"I had two great days preparing on Tuesday and Wednesday," said Palmer, who missed the cut in his first two events this year. "Getting the old putter back out, and getting the old feelings I've had in the past, the way the swing feels and the way the body feels, it was set up for a good day today."
Simpson opened with four pars in a row. He flew up the leaderboard with six birdies in the next seven holes. That spurt started with a 13-footer at 14 and kick-in birdie on the 15th.
After making par at the raucous par-three 16th, Simpson drained a 22-footer birdie on 17 and followed with a six-foot birdie putt on 18.
Around the turn, Simpson sank a 12-footer for birdie on one and moved atop the leaderboard as he stuffed his approach inside a foot on the second.
Simpson climbed to minus-seven when he sank a 16-foot birdie try on the fifth. His drive landed in the rough on the sixth and that led to Simpson's only bogey of the day.
"I really didn't feel like I hit a bad shot. I hit a chip that released a lot more than I thought it would, but other than that it was solid," Simpson said. "I think the thing that kind of held me in there all day was my putting. I made a bunch of putts, so I'm excited about that."
Two-time winner Phil Mickelson posted a three-under 68 and is tied for 19th. That was his first sub-par opening round of the year.
NOTES: This event needed a Monday finish last year after frost delays pushed everything back ... Defending champion Mark Wilson is tied for 50th at minus-one ... Former British Open champion Stewart Cink struggled to seven bogeys, three double-bogeys and a birdie in a round of 12-over 83 ... Forty-two of the 132 players that started did not finish their rounds.