Walk his way: Walker learning more with each win

By Doug FergusonFebruary 10, 2014, 11:36 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The brightest lights that interest Jimmy Walker are found in another galaxy through his high-powered telescope.

He goes to Las Vegas strictly for work.

''I've probably spent more time with him than anyone else the last two years,'' Butch Harmon said Sunday night after watching Walker win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for this third win of a PGA Tour season that is only four months old.

''He's not a big party guy. He's not a big gambling guy,'' Harmon said. ''He comes to Vegas a lot, and he comes to work. He's just works hard, has a lot of talent, a good demeanor. I think we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg with this guy.''

It will take a few more months to figure out how big this iceberg might be.

Winning on the PGA Tour has never been more difficult than it is now, which makes Walker's start even more remarkable. Three wins is a great year for anyone not named Tiger Woods, and Walker has achieved that in only eight starts.

Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval - the best three Americans of their generation - are the only other players in the last 20 years to have won three times in eight tournaments to start a season. Woods has done it eight times (and still might this year).

Beyond the trophies are the different circumstances for each victory.

Walker was steady in the final hour of the Frys.com Open four months ago at CordeValle, making birdie on a par 5 and closing with three pars for a 66 to take advantage of the late blunders by Brooks Koepka. Last month at the Sony Open, a tournament that any of a dozen players could have won on the back nine, Walker pulled away with three straight birdies for a 7-under 63 and a one-shot win.

Pebble Beach might have been the toughest. He had a six-shot lead going into the final round. Woods, an exception in just about every category throughout his career, is about the only person who looks comfortable with a big lead. Walker couldn't remember having a lead like that even as a junior golfer.

There was just enough wind at Pebble Beach to expose a mistake, not enough wind that someone could make a run. Dustin Johnson, a two-time winner at Pebble Beach, closed with a 66 despite making three bogeys. Jim Renner shot 31 on the back nine. They finished second - barely.

Walker looked solid through nine holes, had a five-shot lead at the turn, yet had to make a 5-footer for par on the 18th for a 74 and a one-shot victory.

''I think I'm going to put some good stuff in the memory bank of having a big lead and what to with that, how to deal with that, especially coming down the stretch,'' Walker said. ''I played really well the last three days and ... I really just wanted to finish it off. And we did.''

Harmon could see Walker get tentative with his putting stroke, and that's what made it close. Walker came up woefully short on a wedge to the 13th and three-putted. He missed a 3 1/2-footer for another three-putt bogey on the 17th that cut his lead to one shot playing the 18th. And he provided more drama than he wanted by rolling his 25-foot birdie attempt some 5 feet by the hole on the 18th. The final stroke was his best of the back nine.

''It's very difficult to have a big lead,'' Harmon said. ''He's never had one. He's never known how to act. I'm proud of him. this will help him in major championships when he gets in that position.''

Walker sought out Harmon two years ago at a time when Harmon was looking to scale back his stable. This does not sound like a big project. Harmon could see that Walker had power in his swing and steady hands on the putter.

''He has an old-school swing with a lot of knee drive in general,'' Harmon said. ''He had a narrow, long backswing, and when he transferred his weight the club would get behind him. We put some width in his swing. But he's worked hard on all aspects of his game.''

The test for Walker comes later, and that will be the measure.

Walker went up to No. 24 in the world Monday, a number that would be a little higher except for the strength of the fields he beat. He has played only one World Golf Championship (last year in Shanghai). He has never played more than two majors in a year, and he has only made the cut in a major twice - once in 2001 at Southern Hills in the U.S. Open right after getting out of Baylor.

He has a big lead in the Ryder Cup standings, and while his spot on the U.S. team in October looks to be safe, there are still four majors (double points), three WGCs and The Players Championship (a $10 million purse) ahead of him. There is work left.

Then again, those three wins were not an accident. Winning is hard. After going 187 events without winning, Walker looks comfortable doing it.

''I just go out and play golf,'' Walker said. ''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.''

Cool as an iceberg.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.