American Jimmy Walker held on with a final round 74, including an ice-cool five-footer on the 72nd-hole to post 11-under-par, 276 to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Sunday. Countrymen Dustin Johnson and Jim Renner rounded out the podium just one shot back on 10-under 274, securing T2.
Walker began Sunday with a commanding six-shot lead but lent the field a ray of hope with an opening bogey on No. 1. His steadying birdie on No. 2 righted the ship and the man who had ground out only ONE bogey on the week was on his way. He added another birdie on No. 8 to turn in 35 before the golf tournament was on again. Bogeys on three of the first four holes on the back side, sandwiched with a birdie, kept those in front of him with hope, but they were running out of holes. He scrambled well enough to keep his lead at one entering the final hole. Gamers can go back and point to the times when Walker has let them down but Sunday would not be a repeat performance. He converted his first-ever 36-hole lead ever this week, another example of how his game has evolved. His five footer on the 72nd hole secured his third victory in eight starts in the 2013-14 wraparound season and has cemented his place in history. He now joins Woods (a million times), Phil Mickelson (2005) and David Duval (1999) as the most recent players to win three events in their first eight starts of their respective seasons. If you read my preview articles and recap articles, you should be surprised; not shocked.
Walker decided through the first two rounds that hitting fairways wouldn’t be a big deal this week as he was right around 50%. He ranked T154 out of 156 players through the first two rounds in fairways hit but held a one-shot lead and had made a grand total of ZERO bogeys. He was the only player bogey-free in the field over the first two rounds. Read that again. He finished the week T59 in driving accuracy but he managed to post T6 in GIR and T12 in putts per GIR. I read, somewhat hilariously on Twitter, that once Walker found out how to putt, he would start contending/winning. Well, he was 47th in 2012 and 27th in 2013 but didn’t have a victory. Then, during the broadcast I learned that once Butch Harmon, his new coach in 2012, told him “don’t change a thing” on his putting stroke. Ah, Twitter, don’t you ever change! For the record, Walker was seventh entering the week in total putting but I’ll argue his swing, short-game and confidence has a bit to do with this run of successes as well!
Folks who read this column religiously, I thank you, will be the least surprised people that Walker played well this week at Pebble. His last three appearances have seen him post T9, T9 and T3 last year. He loves the West Coast and loves this event. Gamers were frustrated last time out when he MC at Torrey Pines but we told you that his wife, Erin (@tourwifetravels), relayed via Twitter that his capitulation was illness-based, not performance based. Some folks thought it was the “Tiger Effect”; I went with the horse’s mouth instead and I was rewarded for my belief. He was sick; just like his current game. Walker proved again this week that he belongs in the discussion every time he tees it up. He also proved that he has the nuts, guts and game to close it out on Sundays. Again. I’m glad I hitched my wagon to him early doors in 2013 and he pays off this week as my first One-and-Done (OAD) of the season.
Now, comes the tough part of fantasy gaming. The EASIEST part is jumping on guys who are getting ready or getting close to breaking through. The toughest part of fantasy gaming is getting on board too late. Jimmy Walker now has THREE WINS. Is it time to sell high? Is it time to buy high? I’ll let this sink in for a day or two but I’ll have my answer in this week’s chat with Rob Bolton Wednesday at noon ET at Rotoworld.com.
With this victory, Walker collects $1,188,000, 500 FedExCup points and is the front runner for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Not even I, with my love for him, had THAT on the radar for 2014!
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 12 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Scott Stallings and Kevin Stadler have hoisted the trophies this season.
Jimmy Walker (3) and Kevin Stadler are the only first-time winners this season after posting 12 last year.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. Jimmy Walker held his six-shot lead on Sunday to become the seventh 54-hole leader in 12 events to cash this season.
Vijay Singh, 1994, was the last foreign-born player to win at Pebble Beach.
Rookies don’t win here. Chesson Hadley, T10, gave it a noble showing.
Brandt Snedeker, MC, couldn’t join the exclusive list of greats to defend their title at Pebble Beach.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua and now Kevin Stadler, 33, at WMPO. Walker has now added TWO more victories to the guys currently in their prime! Scott Stallings, 28, Patrick Reed (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29) and Harris English, (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board. The Young Guns now have six of 12 wins to start the season. Hell, Walker has THREE of the six for the Prime-Timers! The Old Guys were by led by Phil Mickelson, 43, and his T19 this week. That’s an aberration on a historic course like this!