Walker wins second straight Sony title

By Doug FergusonJanuary 19, 2015, 1:34 am

HONOLULU - Jimmy Walker was getting coffee Sunday morning when he saw that U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer had lost a 10-shot lead with 13 holes to play in Abu Dhabi. He went back to his room and told his wife, "Winning is hard."

Later that afternoon, Walker made it look easy.

With the most impressive performance of his career, Walker blew away the field Sunday in the Sony Open by closing with a 7-under 63 to win by nine shots, a record margin for the tournament and the biggest rout on the PGA Tour in nearly six years.

Walker watched Jordan Spieth win the Hero World Challenge last month by 10 shots against an 18-man field and wondered if he was on another planet.

"And that's kind of the way it feels when you watch those performances," Walker said. "You see them and are like, `Man, what golf course is that guy playing?' And to be able to say you've done that and you've distanced yourself like that, it's really cool. I think it's a good learning experience. Definitely happy to keep the pedal down."


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The timing could not have been better.

Six days ago on Maui, Walker lost a tournament he felt he should have won. Sunday on Oahu, he played like he was on his own island.

On a course that lends itself to a free-for-all, Walker shot 62-63 on the weekend and never gave anyone much of a chance. The previous Sony Open record for margin of victory was seven shots, last done by Paul Azinger in 2000. Walker became the first repeat winner of this tournament since Ernie Els in 2004.

Scott Piercy closed with a 66 to finish alone in second. Matt Kuchar, who started the final round two shots out of the lead, didn't make a birdie and shot 71 to tie for third with Harris English and Gary Woodland, who each had a 67. Kuchar ended his streak of 255 rounds on the PGA Tour with at least one birdie.

But this was Walker's show, and it came with a small measure of redemption. Walker had a three-shot lead with five holes to play at Kapalua last Monday when he wound up losing to Patrick Reed in a playoff at the Tournament of Champions. With a quick turnaround, he quickly put it behind him.

"I really wanted to finish out the day like I didn't do last week," Walker said.

He finished at 23-under 257.

The text message Sunday morning from swing coach Butch Harmon was to "keep the pedal down today." The message from caddie Andy Sanders over just about every putt was, "Don't let up."

The decisive moment came at the par-4 eighth hole. Walker and Kuchar both opened with seven straight pars, and Walker stuffed his pitching wedge from 126 yards to 3 feet for birdie. Kuchar pulled his tee shot into the royal palms, punched out short of the green and made bogey.

That two-shot swing gave Walker a four-shot lead, and he was on his way.

"I felt like up to that point everything was kind of stale," Walker said. "I was playing hard, and I hit some really good shots on the first three holes, just didn't make a putt and finally got it open and I finally made the putt. Made a good birdie on 9, another one on 10, and the putts started to go in after that."

Walker made all seven of his birdies over the final 11 holes, and he couldn't miss on the back nine. He took a total of 20 putts on the back nine at Waialae in the third and fourth rounds. And even with a big lead, he kept grinding away over putts he didn't need to make.

It was the largest margin of victory on the PGA Tour since Brian Gay won at Hilton Head by 10 shots in 2009. This was more reminiscent of the last time someone lost in a playoff, and then won the next week. That was Kyle Stanley in 2012, though the circumstances were entirely different.

Stanley made triple bogey on the last hole at Torrey Pines and then lost in a playoff. He won Phoenix the following week with a great rally. Walker didn't do that much wrong at Kapalua except for one bad swing off the tee and failing to make a few putts. Still, the loss stung, and he was more than happy to head home to Texas for a two-week break with another trophy.

"He's one of the hottest players in the world," Piercy said after his round, when Walker was pulling away. "What he's done the last year or two years, nobody's catching him. It's just a cake walk."

Walker didn't treat it like one, which might be why he won by such a healthy margin.

It was his fourth win in his last 32 starts, and he should move up to career-high No. 13 in the world ranking. During his two-week stay in Hawaii, Walker averaged 66 each round and picked up just under $1.7 million. Most importantly, he's going home with another trophy.

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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.