Walker building on lessons learned at Ryder Cup

By Doug FergusonJanuary 20, 2015, 7:10 pm

HONOLULU – Some of the best golf at the Ryder Cup occurred in a match hardly anyone noticed.

That should be expected. Jimmy Walker was involved.

He is becoming more difficult to ignore with each victory. Walker's nine-shot win at the Sony Open - the largest margin on the PGA Tour in nearly six years - was his fourth victory in the last 15 months, the most of any American in that stretch. His world ranking is No. 13, moving him closer to his goal of playing in the Olympics.

More work remains, starting with the majors, and Walker knows this.

Last year was his first time playing all four majors, and while he didn't seriously contend in any, he still had top 10s in the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship. That's not a bad start, and Walker has shown to be a quick study and a hard worker.

Of all the new experiences from 2014, though, what stood out was Sunday at Gleneagles.

The Ryder Cup long had been decided when Walker won his singles match against Lee Westwood by making eight birdies in 16 holes. With key wins early from Europe's two major champions, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, there was no reason for television to pay much attention to a match that affected only the final score.

But it was a big deal for Walker.

He believes his performance on such a big stage, and what he learned from that match, will take him to a higher level. The Sony Open is miles away from the Ryder Cup in so many aspects, though it caused him to reminisce the way he never let up until it was over.

''That was huge, that Sunday match against Lee,'' Walker said. ''That was another day where I didn't want to let him have anything. After the Ryder Cup I said, 'I need to figure how to get in that mode, where every shot means so much.' That's how it felt. I was so engaged in every shot I hit. I've got to try to figure out how to do that week in and week out. And that's how I felt today.''

His second straight victory in the Sony Open was important for a couple of reasons. It was his third straight year with a PGA Tour victory, and it was right after he lost a tournament he felt he should have won.

Walker doesn't feel as if he let up at Kapalua, though he was surprised by the quick turnaround. He missed one shot that led to bogey and missed two birdie putts inside 10 feet as Patrick Reed played the last four holes in 4-under par, including an 80-yard shot he holed for eagle. Reed won with a birdie in the playoff.

Given another chance six days later, Walker was ruthless.

He showed the capacity to turn a two-shot lead into four, and a four-shot lead into eight. That's the kind of golf he saw from Jordan Spieth last month at the Hero World Challenge when Spieth won by 10 shots; from Martin Kaymer at the U.S. Open last summer when he won by eight at Pinehurst; from Rory McIlroy in the first two majors he won (each by eight shots); and from Tiger Woods more times than he can remember.

There was one moment when Walker even looked like Woods.

One of the more fascinating moments of Woods' 15-shot win at the 2000 U.S. Open came late in the final round at Pebble Beach when he hit a flyer over the 16th green and chipped to 15 feet. The tournament was over, and had been for hours, but Woods was stalking and crouching and concentrating over that putt as if he were tied for the lead. Woods buried the putt and showed as much emotion as he had all day.

Later, he revealed that his sole purpose was to not make bogey in the final round. He played the last 26 holes of a U.S. Open without one.

From behind the 14th green at Waialae on Sunday, and ahead by six shots, Walker's chip ran about 6 feet by the hole. With only his coin on the green, he stood over the putt and took a few one-handed swings. Finally, he replaced the ball - but still not the coin - and stood over it again, his eyes going from the ball to the hole. He did that one more time before removing the coin, and then he backed off again before making the putt.

''I didn't want to give anything back,'' he said. ''I didn't want to make bogey.''

And he didn't. Walker went on to make 15-foot birdie putts on the next two holes, a 10-foot par putt on the 17th and closed with a 5-foot birdie and a 7-under 63.

''I remember when Jordan did that and I thought, 'That guy is playing some golf. He's making more putts than anyone.' You see that and think, 'Wow, I want to do that,''' Walker said. ''I've watched Tiger do that - he did it a bunch. I'm watching Rory do it now. It's cool.''

And it's a step in the right direction.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x