Walker wins first PGA Tour title at Frys.com Open

By Doug FergusonOctober 14, 2013, 1:58 am

SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Jimmy Walker finally won on the PGA Tour in his eighth year and 188th tournament, and with a little help from Brooks Koepka.

Tied for the lead with four holes to play Sunday, Walker rolled in a 6-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole to take the lead for good in the Frys.com Open. Three closing pars for a 5-under 66 turned out to be more than enough for the 34-year-old Texan to take home a trophy and plenty of perks.

Walker is going to the Masters for the first time, along with a trip to Maui for the Tournament of Champions. He also cracked the top 50 for the first time in his career.

''I think it will sink in after a while,'' Walker said. ''Relief right now. It feels really good. I'm pretty excited.''

It was a sinking feeling for Koepka, whose journey around the world in a remarkable year nearly ended with a PGA Tour card.

Koepka had a four-shot lead with 11 holes to play, and the 23-year-old Floridian looked as poised and confident as he had all week at CordeValle. There was a tiny crack when he missed a 3-foot par putt on the ninth hole, and it really caught up with him at the end.


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Koepka missed a 6-foot putt on the 15th that would have matched birdies with Walker, who was playing in the group ahead of him. Koepka then missed his tee shot wildly to the left on the 16th hole and had to scramble for bogey. Down to his last shot, he hit into the water on the 297-yard, par-4 17th for another bogey.

''Things weren't going my way,'' Koepka said. ''I didn't make the shots I needed to win. Congrats to Jimmy on that. I'll try to learn from the whole experience.''

Vijay Singh closed with a 68 and wound up with the 27th runner-up finish of his Hall of Fame career, and his best result since he sued the PGA Tour in May over its handling of the investigation into Singh admitting he used deer antler spray.

Koepka, who closed with a 72, wound up in a tie for third with Kevin Na, Puerto Rico winner Scott Brown and Hideki Matsuyama, the 21-year-old Japanese star who is playing the PGA Tour for the first time. He was in the Presidents Cup last week.

The Frys.com Open is the season opener in the new PGA Tour schedule, which starts in October instead of January for the first time in history. Instead of a Fall Series event where players mainly were trying to make money to keep their cards, the tournament offered all the perks of any other regular PGA Tour event.

That much was evident when a yellow Masters flag was stuffed into the silver trophy.

Walker played Augusta National for the first time about five years ago with his dad and a member. He can't wait to go back for the Masters.

Koepka was playing on a sponsor's exemption that he received without asking – tournament officials identified him as a potential star when he started the year with no status on any tour and won three times on the Challenge Tour to earn his European Tour card. He qualified for the British Open the day after his third Challenge Tour win.

He was between stops in Scotland and Shanghai, and now his plans are slightly altered. Koepka's finish gets him into Las Vegas next week before he goes back to the European Tour for the BMW Masters in China.

Billy Hurley III closed with a 68 and NCAA champion Max Homa from Cal birdied two of the last three holes to tie for ninth. That gets them in Las Vegas.

Koepka won all of his Challenge Tour events in Europe with the 54-hole lead, experience he figured could only help. For eight holes, he was on the verge of running away from the field. Koepka rammed in a 45-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole to reach 17 under, and when Singh in the group ahead three-putted the seventh for bogey from about the same range, the Floridian had a four-shot lead.

It was gone in four holes.

Koepka had about a 15-foot birdie putt from the collar of the par-5 ninth green that went about 3 feet by the hole. But the stroke on his par putt looked a little quick, and it caught the left lip and spun out for a bogey. On the par-3 11th, he pulled a 6-foot par putt. That dropped him into a tie for the lead with Walker, who was in the group ahead and had made a 15-foot birdie on the eighth and a two-putt birdie from long range on the ninth.

They traded birdies – Koepka with a 3-footer on the par-5 12th, Walker with a 30-foot putt from the fringe on the 13th, setting the stage for the decisive stretch at CordeValle – a par 5 that could be reached in two, the par-4 17th that played 297 yards over the water, and a closing hole that required only a flip wedge with a big drive.

And that's where it was decided.

''I can't get too down on this week,'' Koepka said. ''I know I'll be criticized. But this year has been amazing. This week I played well. It happens to the best of them.''

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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.