Walker eyes another hot start to wraparound season

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2015, 9:22 pm

A new PGA Tour season has begun, which means one thing: it's time for Jimmy Walker to go to work.

Walker is perhaps the poster child for the Tour's wraparound schedule, now in its third edition, and all of the benefits that can be gleaned from a hot start. He won the season opener back in 2013, his first career victory that brought with it his first Masters invite. That led to two more trophies during a breakthrough season that ended with a Ryder Cup appearance.

He didn't win last fall, but he did make several starts, including a T-4 finish at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. That helped him hit the ground running in January, when he followed a playoff loss at Kaplua with a nine-shot romp at the Sony Open. 

Walker is back in action this week in Las Vegas, where he has recorded three straight top-15 finishes. He took a step toward a fourth such result with a 5-under 66 in the opening round at TPC Summerlin, a score that put him two shots off the early pace. 

The 36-year-old feels comfortable in the desert, but he has also made a habit out of capitalizing on the portion of the calendar when many big names opt put the clubs away.

"Getting off to a quick start is always nice. I think anybody will tell you that," Walker said Wednesday. "I'm looking forward to this week. I really enjoy playing here. The golf course is one of my faves."

A strong start is the goal, but Walker is also eager to erase the taste of a poor finish to this most recent season. While he won twice and finished second at the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship, that runner-up proved to be his lone top-10 finish over his final 14 starts. He had a similar regression down the stretch in 2014, but this one was more pronounced and included missed cuts at the Players Championship and the PGA Championship.

While he remained one of the best putters on Tour, Walker finished last season ranked outside the top 100 in both GIR percentage (101st) and driving accuracy (180th).

"I wasn't real happy with the last half of my season this year," he said. "I definitely want to step it back up and get back into playing the kind of golf I can play, and play better."

"He ran out of gas a little," added Walker's swing coach, Butch Harmon, who lives minutes away from this week's venue. "He starts fast and then pushes real hard at the end of the year to make sure he makes the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup."

Walker has made those teams each of the last two years, and for 2016 he has added the goal of qualifying for the Olympics. He is currently the ninth-highest American in the world rankings, with the top four come July expected to qualify for Rio de Janeiro.

In order to pass players like Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk, among others, Walker will need to straighten out his ball-striking. His stat line during Thursday's opener left something to be desired - seven of 14 fairways, 12 of 18 greens in regulation - but Walker's hot putter more than countered any inaccuracies.

There is work to be done, sure. But sometimes the right venue is all that is needed to spark another hot start.

"Place just kind of puts me in a good mood. Vegas is fun, nice place to be," he said. "They treat us right, and it's always good crowds here, and the weather is nice. Just kind of puts you in a good mood, I think."

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.