Jimmy Walker started his professional golf career in 2001, and finally became a true, full-time member of the PGA Tour in 2008. The definition of a journeyman, Walker made 187 Tour starts before his first win at this past October’s Frys.com Open.
While that first victory was certainly a lot of fun, I have a feeling he’ll have a permanent place in his heart for Waialae, having scored his second career win at the Sony Open on Sunday.
Walker came into Sunday’s final round trailing leader Chris Kirk by two strokes. He had played some solid golf, carding scores of 66-67-67 through three rounds, but it looked like he was going to need every but of scoring he could muster to make a comeback. The way he did it was incredible.
Each of the first three days, Walker had consistently set himself back with some poorly timed bogeys. He had only eight through 54 holes, but he often found himself grinding just to make up for lost ground.
“I stayed patient, I said if I didn’t make any bogeys today, I had enough firepower this week, I kept making a bunch of bogeys this week and didn’t have any today,” Walker said in his post-win interview. “I made a really key par putt over on 14, which was really big, and then the string of birdies there was pretty awesome.”
The string of birdies he’s referencing came on holes 15, 16, and 17, and ended up being the difference when Kirk’s eagle attempt from just off the 18th green burned past the right edge of the cup.
In the big picture, Walker’s win is probably the best thing the PGA Tour officials could have hoped for in the first year of the wraparound schedule. With the fall events now offering full FedEx Cup points, we have a two-time champion with a dramatic early lead in the race for the playoffs. Walker’s 1,233 points would have put him just outside the top ten for all of last year. It’s barely the middle of January, and several players are still on their offseason break. You can bet this will bring a few more big names out in the early part of next year’s schedule.
Winning on Tour is a funny thing, and streaks in this sport are a very real thing. No matter what else happens this year, Jimmy Walker has put himself in a great spot for a run at the playoffs, and that will allow him to play much more relaxed golf as the long season wears on.