Friday, November 21, 2014

Walker off to hot start

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif.—Even with his high-powered telescope, Jimmy Walker might have had a hard time finding himself among the stars.
Just four months ago, Walker began his eighth season on the PGA Tour with no wins in 187 attempts.

With a little more drama than he wanted yesterday in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, he held on for his third victory in his last eight tournaments.
In the last 20 years on the PGA Tour, only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and David Duval have won so often so early in a season.
“I don’t know if it was just a matter of doing it once and then having it happen again and then happen again,” Walker said after holing a five-foot par putt on the 18th at Pebble Beach for a two-over 74.
“I’ve always felt like I could win out here, and I think that’s what you have to believe to be out here—that you belong and that you can win,” he reasoned.
“And finally, it happened.
“And it’s cool that it’s happened a couple more times. Quickly.”
He was feeling a little more heat than he needed on another cool, cloudy afternoon on the Monterey Peninsula.
Walker had a six-shot lead at the start of the final round. He was still five shots clear when he made the turn and was two shots ahead with two to play.
With two putts for the win from 25 feet, he ran his birdie attempt about five feet by the hole—and had to make that to avoid a playoff with Dustin Johnson and Jim Renner.
“It’s drama, man,” Walker said on the 18th green. “It was too much for me.”
The finish wasn’t what he wanted. The result was what Walker has come to expect.
He was never seriously challenged until Johnson—and then Renner—put together a strong finish.
Johnson, a two-time winner at Pebble Beach, closed with a 66 on a card that included three bogeys.
Renner, who had yet to make a cut all year, made five birdies on the back nine for a 67.
Walker made a 10-foot birdie on the 11th hole and seemingly was on his way.
But he hit a poor chip on the par-three 12th for a bogey. He then three-putted the 13th for a bogey.
He later three-putted the 17th for bogey—missing his par putt from three-and-a-half feet.
“I hate three-putting,” Walker said.
“I had two of them back there, and definitely didn’t want another one on the last.”
Walker finished at 11-under 277 and earned $1.188 million, expanding his lead in the Ryder Cup standings to more than $1 million over Mickelson in second place.
The Ryder Cup is based on PGA Tour earnings, although there are still four majors (which count double), three World Golf Championships, and The Players Championship remaining.
For now, the stars are aligned for Walker better than anything he sees through his high-powered telescope—his hobby over the last five years.
“I just go out and play golf,” Walker noted.
“This is what I want to do and I’ve worked really hard to do it, to be here, and to be in this position and it’s really cool.”
Jordan Spieth had to return yesterday morning to complete his third round, which ended with his sixth three-putt of the round for a 78.
He faced Pebble at its most vicious throughout the third round, though he bounced back with a bogey-free 67 in the afternoon to at least tie for fourth with Kevin Na (69).
And he hasn’t lost his sense of humour.
“Yesterday [Saturday] was a day where you want to play Pebble Beach in that weather once in your life,” Spieth noted.
“You just don’t want it be Saturday when you’re in the lead.”

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