SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Jimmy Walker has made very few mistakes this week at Baltusrol. He didn’t think he made one on the 18th hole Friday, either, until his drawing tee shot kicked left and into the pond, leading to a closing bogey and a sour finish.
“I felt like I hit a good drive there,” he said.
It was a disappointing end to what has been a resurgent start to the PGA Championship for Walker, who shares the halfway lead with Robert Streb at 9-under 131. That two-round total tied the record for lowest score in tournament history.
It’s the first time in Walker’s career that he’ll take a 36-hole lead into the weekend at a major. He said he expects to be more excited than nervous come Saturday afternoon.
“It’s not a negative,” he said. “It’s just a new experience, and it will be fun. I’ve been in these situations before – not in a major, but it’s still golf, and you want to go out and win. You still have to go perform, it doesn’t matter what the tournament is.”
Walker’s previous best position in a major through 36 holes was a tie for seventh at the 2014 Masters. It’s one of the most curious aspects of his career – he racked up five wins in a span of 17 months, but to this point he has yet to contend in a major.
That he’s challenging this week is even more of a surprise, given his plummeting world ranking and recent results, with no top-10s since March.
Walker tied for 14th last week in Canada, where he said he began trying to match his driver and iron swing with his wedge action, during which he stands closer to the ball, keeps the club in front of him and quiets his lower body.
“It has felt great,” he said. “I’ve been excited to hit the ball.”
Walker was cruising Friday and, approaching Baltusrol’s back-to-back par 5s to finish, on the verge of setting the 36-hole scoring record in a major. Then he hooked his tee shot into a hospitality tent on 17, leading to a scrambling par, and then hit what he thought was a solid tee shot down the last before it kicked into the pond. He then three-putted from 50 feet on the bumpy green for a bogey, just his second dropped shot of the week.
Asked his mindset for this new position in a major, Walker said: “I’ve never done it before, but I would imagine just more of the same. It’s just golf and you have to go out and hit the golf shots.”