Thursday, January 18, 2018
Golf

Jimmy Walker wins first major at PGA Championship

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — The stars had never aligned this magnificently for Jimmy Walker.

In the longest final day at the PGA Championship in 64 years, Walker produced three big birdies on the back nine at Baltusrol and held his nerve Sunday against the No. 1 player in the world to the very end. He closed with 3-under 67 for a one-shot victory over defending champion Jason Day at 14-under 266.

Walker provided a little too much drama at the end.

He built a three-shot lead with an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th, only to watch Day blast a 2-iron onto the green at the par-5 18th to 15 feet for an eagle, setting off the loudest cheer of the week and closing his deficit to one shot.

"It was nice to get the eagle, just to try and make Jimmy think about it," Day said. "But obviously, Jimmy just played too good all day."

Needing only par to win, Walker went for the green and left it in deep rough to the right and well below the green. He safely pitched to 35 feet, and the ensuing putt settled 3 feet beyond the hole. He had never felt more nerves over such a short putt, which dropped in to give Walker his first major victory at 37.

Walker — who led wire to wire — calmly pumped his fist twice and embraced his caddie, Andy Sanders, whom he met at Baltusrol in the 2000 U.S. Amateur when they played a practice round.

"Sometimes, things just don't come easy," Walker said after hoisting the 37-pound Wanamaker Trophy, impressive that he had any strength left after a 36-hole final day brought on by rain Saturday. "(Day) really put it on me to make a par. Sometimes pars are hard. But we got it.

"It was amazing. It was a battle all day."

Day, trying to join Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of the PGA Championship in the stroke-play era, went out to the 18th green with his young son, Dash, to watch the finish and quickly found Walker as he walked off the green.

"Great stuff, mate," Day said.

In a most peculiar final day at a major, the PGA Championship allowed for preferred lies — that never happens in a major — because of nearly 4 inches of rain during the week that drenched the Lower Course. Desperate to beat the clock and avoid a second straight Monday finish in a PGA Championship at Baltusrol, the pairings stayed the same for the final round.

Walker and Day played with occasional mud on their balls on the back nine of the third round Sunday morning as some players behind them were able to lift, clean and place their balls in short grass in the fourth round.

But it ended on a happy note for Walker. He is a major champion, completing a sweep of first-time winners in the majors this year.

Better yet: It moved him from No. 29 to No. 4 in the Ryder Cup standings, all but assuring him a spot on the U.S. team for the event this fall.

Walker is a late bloomer who has received as much attention in recent years for his astrophotography, with some of his work recognized by NASA. He needed a performance that was out of this world in a wet, wild Sunday, and he delivered every step of the way.

He shot 68-67 Sunday to finish one shot from David Toms' record score in the 2001 PGA Championship. Day finished 67-67.

Walker played the final 28 holes without a bogey. He began the back nine of his final round by holing a 45-foot bunker shot on No. 10 and making a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 11. The final birdie was the most important. Walker twice had to back off his 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th when he heard the crowd erupt after Day's shot into the 18th.

It slipped in the edge of the cup for birdie, and Walker had the cushion he needed.

More amazing than Walker playing bogey-free for his first major was that the PGA Championship even finished. Any delay would have meant a Monday finish. Instead, it was the first time since Jim Turnesa won the 1952 PGA Championship in a 36-hole match that the winner played so many holes on the final day.

Daniel Summerhays birdied three of his last four holes for 66 to finish alone in third at 10 under, earning him his first trip to the Masters next year. The top four finishers get Masters spots.

Brooks Koepka, playing for the first time since he pulled out of the Bridgestone Invitational one month ago because of an ankle injury, didn't make a birdie until the 15th hole and closed with 70 to tie for fourth at 9 under with Branden Grace (67) and Hideki Matsuyama (68).

British Open champion Henrik Stenson, trying to join Ben Hogan as the only players to win back-to-back majors at age 40, finally faded away with a double bogey on the 15th hole.

"It was a long day. I never felt like I brought my 'A' game," said Stenson, who started the final round two shots behind and closed with 71 to finish 8 under. "I think I hit more poor shots in the two rounds (Sunday) than in the previous six or seven rounds combined."

 
Comments
Patton Kizzire beats James Hahn in marathon Sony Open playoff

Patton Kizzire beats James Hahn in marathon Sony Open playoff

HONOLULU — A day after a false alarm caused some panic at the Sony Open, there was more drama — of a much more benign sort.Patton Kizzire made par on the tournament-record sixth playoff hole Sunday to beat James Hahn and win his second PGA Tour title...
Published: 01/14/18
False alarm on missile launch triggers anxiety at PGA Tour event in Hawaii

False alarm on missile launch triggers anxiety at PGA Tour event in Hawaii

HONOLULU — Charles Howell was eating breakfast in his hotel when the restaurant at the Kahala started buzzing. Everyone had their phones. Everyone received the same push alert. "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS...
Published: 01/13/18
Brian Harman extends good play in Hawaii, takes Sony Open lead

Brian Harman extends good play in Hawaii, takes Sony Open lead

HONOLULU — Different islands, vastly different golf courses, same good play from Brian Harman. One week after Harman shared the 36-hole lead at Kapalua, he ran off three straight birdies and closed with a 15-foot eagle putt for 7-under 63 and a three...
Published: 01/12/18
Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson share lead at PGA’s Sony Open in Hawaii

Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson share lead at PGA’s Sony Open in Hawaii

HONOLULU — Zach Johnson and Chris Kirk kept clean cards on a gorgeous day and each shot 7-under 63 Thursday to share the lead after the first round of the Sony Open. Jordan Spieth wasn’t as fortunate. Spieth hit four trees with four shots on the par-...
Published: 01/11/18
Dustin Johnson romps to 8-shot victory in Hawaii

Dustin Johnson romps to 8-shot victory in Hawaii

KAPALUA, Hawaii — A new year brought out the best in Dustin Johnson, who powered his way to 8-under 65 and an eight-shot victory Sunday in the Tournament of Champions. In a field that featured the top-five players in the world, Johnson made a strong ...
Published: 01/07/18
Missouri senior uses playoff birdie to win New Year’s Invitational in St. Petersburg

Missouri senior uses playoff birdie to win New Year’s Invitational in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Cold and windy conditions didn’t affect Hayden Buckley last year when he won the New Year’s Invitational, and they didn’t affect him again this year in the 92nd edition of the event.The University of Missouri senior repeated as champ...
Published: 01/07/18

Dustin Johnson surges into lead at Tournament of Champions

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Dustin Johnson holed out with a wedge for eagle, made birdie on every par 5 and powered his way to 7-under 66 to build a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Tournament of Champions. Coming off his lone bogey from a poor ...
Published: 01/06/18
Tiger Woods’ return includes Torrey Pines, Rivera

Tiger Woods’ return includes Torrey Pines, Rivera

Tiger Woods is playing twice in California over the next six weeks as he begins another comeback on the PGA Tour from back surgery. Woods announced Thursday that he will play the Farmers Insurance Open on Jan. 25 at Torrey Pines, the San Diego course...
Published: 01/04/18