Walker hangs on at Pebble Beach, wins third title

By Doug FergusonFebruary 10, 2014, 12:42 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The finish wasn't what Jimmy Walker wanted. The result is what he's come to expect.

Walker led by as many as six shots Sunday in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, only for it to be decided by his final putt. He ran his birdie attempt 5 feet by the hole, and had to make that for par to close with a 2-over 74 and a one-shot win over Dustin Johnson and Jim Renner.

''It's drama, man,'' Walker said on the 18th green. ''It was too much for me.''

But it was a familiar outcome for Walker, a 35-year-old Texan who only four months ago was regarded as one of the best players to have never won on the PGA Tour. This was his third win of the PGA Tour season, a streak that began in October about an hour away at the Frys.com Open.


AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Articles, videos and photos


Walker joined some exclusive company. He is only the fourth player in the last 20 years to win three times in his first eight starts to a season. The others are Tiger Woods (who has done it eight times), Phil Mickelson and David Duval.

For a brief moment, it looked as though Walker might have a chance to join Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia as players to lose a six-shot lead in the final round.

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 was seemingly on his way.

But he hit a poor chip on the par-3 12th for a bogey. He three-putted the 13th for a bogey. He settled down for three simple pars and was two shots clear with two to play. Walker three-putted the 17th, missing a 3 1/2-foot par putt. He tried to play it safe on the 18th with an iron off the tee that found the right rough.

From 25 feet above the hole, he hit the birdie putt too hard and had one anxious moment.

''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 on 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, though 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.

''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.''

Jordan Spieth had to return Sunday 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 to at least tie for fourth with Kevin Na (69).

And he hasn't lost his sense of humor.

''Yesterday was a day where you want to play Pebble Beach in that weather once in your life,'' Spieth said. ''You just don't want it be Saturday when you're in the lead.''

Chalk it up to another learning experience for Spieth, who said his 36 putts were more a product of not having the speed than the less-than-smooth quality.

''I felt like I needed birdies when I didn't,'' he said.

Another strong finish belonged to Graeme McDowell, returning to Pebble for the first time since his U.S. Open title in 2010. He closed with a 67, happy with a week in which he would have settled for just knocking some rust off his game before heading to Riviera next week.

Outside of Walker, however, the big winner was Renner.

He was among the Web.com Tour graduates who played poorly in the four ''finals'' event that determine priority ranking, and struggled to get into tournaments. In his fifth start, he not only made his first cut, Renner earned a spot at Riviera next week and will be in better position to get into events over the next couple of months.

''It was pretty big,'' Renner said. ''I just knew I needed a good week. My back was up against the wall, and that's something I'm familiar with and I don't mind it. But I'm happy that I freed myself up a little bit for the rest of the year.''

DIVOTS: Jim Renner and John Harkey Jr., the CEO of Consolidated Restaurant Operations, Inc., won the pro-am portion of the tournament. ... Tim Wilkinson, playing in the final group with Jimmy Walker, closed with a 73 and tied for seventh. That gets him into the Northern Trust Open next week at Riviera. ... Walker was the fourth Pebble Beach winner since 1994 to shoot 74 in the final round – Johnny Miller in 1994, Dustin Johnson in 2010, and Graeme McDowell in the 2010 U.S. Open.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”