Jimmy Walker racked up 188 PGA Tour event appearances before recording his first win, last October at the season-opening Frys.com Open. Showing that he is a fast learner once he knows the way, Walker took only five more tourneys to notch his second victory, Sunday at the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Hawaii.
Walker, an Oklahoma City native who played college golf at Baylor and now calls San Antonio, Texas, home, was never outside of the top four over the first three days of the tournament, posting scores of 66, 66, and 67 on the tight par-70 course at Waialae Country Club on Oahu’s South Shore. Trailing 54-hole leader Chris Kirk by two strokes going in to the final round, Walker surged past Kirk in the last round to take the win, putting up a 7-under 63 against Kirk’s 66.
The front nine of the 1927 Seth Raynor-designed course yielded only two birdies for Walker on Sunday, setting him even with Kirk and Wisconsin’s Jerry Kelly at 12 under at the midpoint of the final round, with Harris English one stroke up on the pursuing trio at 13 under.
Getting into contention in a golf tournament is one thing, but hanging on for the win over the closing holes is another. Walker credited the experience he gained with the win at the 2013 Frys.com Open with helping him close out his second PGA Tour victory.
“I felt very calm and controlled,” he said in a post-round interview. “That’s what you’ve got to feel and do when it’s time to win. It’s easy to say, hard to do. But today was awesome. I felt in control all day.”
A conversation with his caddie at the ninth hole, after a birdie on the second was followed by a string of six pars, got Walker focused on the job at hand.
“He just said, ‘Let’s get par out of here and hit a good drive down nine and we’ll get it going at nine.’ and that’s kind of what we did.”
While Harris English fell off the pace with a 1-under 34 on the back nine, Walker’s other two closest opponents, Jerry Kelly and Chris Kirk, hung on his heels with back-side scores of 32 and 31, respectively. A string of three consecutive birdies by Walker, at holes 15 through 17, was more than his opponents could match, however, and put the closing touch on his win.
The win puts Walker in command of the FedEx Cup standings with a 302-point lead over Chris Kirk, echoing their Sony Open finish order. Walker is also now marginally ahead in the Ryder Cup points standings for the 2014 U. S. team, and shot up 15 places in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), from #47 to his highest-ever position, #32.
NorCal pros finish in the money in Hawaii
Three of the four Northern California pros who were in the field at Waialae made the cut and finished in the money in the first full-field PGA Tour event of the 2014 calendar year. Sacramento’s Spencer Levin lead the list, finishing T-29 with an 8-under 272; Ricky Barnes, a Stockton native now based out of Phoenix, posted a 6-under 274 to finish T-38, and San Bruno’s James Hahn finished at 5-under, T-46, with one over-par round.
Clovis native Derek Ernst continues his search for the form that helped him to a rookie-season win last May at the Wells Fargo Championship, posting rounds of 68-72 to miss the cut at Waialae by a stroke. All four NorCal pros are slated to be in the field at the end of this week in the first stop on the “California Swing”, the Humana Challenge at La Quinta, in Southern California’s Coachella Valley.