Walker started his third round Sunday morning tied with Robert Streb, but he fell two shots behind a hard-charging Jason Day after making three bogeys on his first eight holes. Walker rallied on the inward half, though, carding four birdies to shoot a 2-under 68.
The last of those birdies, a two-putt from 43 feet on No. 18, moved Walker to 11 under, giving him the 54-hole lead in a major championship for the first time in his career.
“Just made a couple of loose swings, and finally I settled in and said. ‘Let’s hit a good shot into (No.) 6,’” Walker said. “I did, and it felt good. And I said, ‘Man, I’m swinging at it good. Let’s keep trusting that.’ And finally after that, I started making some really quality golf swings, shots right at the flag, good ball control, good distance control, so felt good.”
Walker won five times in an 18-month stretch from 2013-15, but this season hasn’t gone as planned. He hasn’t cracked the top 10 since March at Doral, and he entered this week in danger of slipping outside the top 50 in the world rankings for the first time in nearly three years.
Those trends could reverse quickly at Baltusrol Golf Club, where a marathon day in the rain could result in a breakthrough victory and extend a recent trend of first-time major winners.
Because of the PGA of America’s decision not to re-pair for the final round, Walker will again play alongside Streb, instead of a pairing with the world No. 1 and defending champion in Day. He’ll also experience lift, clean and place conditions for the first time in a major, although Walker doesn’t believe it will have much bearing on the tournament’s final outcome.
“I think it’s a smart move. They don’t know what it’s going to do. It’s pretty wet out there,” he said. “I don’t think it gives you a crazy, crazy advantage with the ball in hand. Maybe a little pitching here and there, but I don’t think it’s going to change anything.”