Jun. 8—RIDGELAND — Former Clemson golfer Bryson Nimmer learned quickly just how far experience can go on the PGA Tour.
The Bluffton native made his fourth career PGA Tour start — and first in his home state — back in April at Hilton Head's Harbour Town Golf Links for the RBC Heritage, and he noticed during his practice rounds with more experienced pros that they were watching bounces and rolls he never would've considered giving a glance.
The tables may turn this week for the less-seasoned players.
The PGA Tour is making a one-off stop at Congaree Golf Club, just outside of Ridgeland where Nimmer lived as a child. The RBC Canadian Open was relocated due to COVID-19 concerns after being canceled outright last year, and in its place is this week's Palmetto Championship.
Named Golf Digest's best new private course for 2018, Congaree is one that's a mystery to most of the pros in the field. But not Nimmer, who's played it a handful of times and has plenty of family history in the area. That could help level the playing field to a degree for Nimmer, who's playing on a sponsor exemption, and other players without years of experience on golf's biggest stage.
"I think here it's kind of cool this week because these guys are doing the same process we are," he said Tuesday. "They're trying to learn the golf course instead of already knowing it. So it's going to be a big difference and it will probably affect the scoring, too."
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and No. 8 Brooks Koepka are the headliners this week in a field that also includes the Aiken trio of Kevin Kisner, Matt NeSmith and Scott Brown. England's Tyrrell Hatton (No. 11) and Matthew Fitzpatrick (No. 21) and South Korea's Sungjae Im (No. 25) are the other top-ranked players in the field.
The 25-year-old Nimmer was a four-time All-ACC selection at Clemson, joining Jonathan Byrd and D.J. Trahan as the only players in program history to accomplish that. He capped off his career with the Tigers with a program-record four tournament titles in 2018-19, and he finished tied for seventh individually that year at the Palmetto Intercollegiate.
Nimmer also had a near-miss at Palmetto Golf Club in the Southern Cross during his high school days at Hilton Head Christian. He lost to South Aiken's Jake Carter in a playoff in 2015, denying him a chance to match his father Tony's win in 1979 while playing for Thomas Heyward Academy.
Nimmer's parents and grandparents grew up in Ridgeland, and he said the family moved to Bluffton when he was 5 or 6 years old.
He received the local treatment at Harbour Town, and he's expecting plenty of it this week from Clemson fans and area golf fans alike.
"Being my fifth (PGA Tour start), I kind of feel more comfortable now and learned a lot from the Heritage, kind of playing in front of my hometown crowd for the first time and it will be that again this week, which I'm super excited about," he said.
Nimmer has already experienced success on a one-off forced by the pandemic. He was the points leader on last year's LOCALiQ series, an eight-tournament schedule created to replace canceled events on PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latinoamerica and PGA Tour China. He won twice and finished second in seven starts, which he said taught him that he deserved to be on the course with the best players in the world.
Weather conditions this week may mean a different test at Congaree, which Tom Fazio designed to be firm and fast and reminiscent of the layouts of the famed sandbelt region of Australia.
It's looking more vulnerable — as vulnerable as a 7,655-yard par-71 can be, anyway — after frequent downpours early in the week.
"It's very different right now, soft conditions, greens are spinning a lot more," Nimmer said. "I wouldn't be surprised at all if come Thursday it's firm and fast, but right now it's pretty soft so we're getting ready for that."