Walker hangs on at Pebble Beach, wins third title

By Doug FergusonFebruary 10, 2014, 12:42 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The finish wasn't what Jimmy Walker wanted. The result is what he's come to expect.

Walker led by as many as six shots Sunday in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, only for it to be decided by his final putt. He ran his birdie attempt 5 feet by the hole, and had to make that for par to close with a 2-over 74 and a one-shot win over Dustin Johnson and Jim Renner.

''It's drama, man,'' Walker said on the 18th green. ''It was too much for me.''

But it was a familiar outcome for Walker, a 35-year-old Texan who only four months ago was regarded as one of the best players to have never won on the PGA Tour. This was his third win of the PGA Tour season, a streak that began in October about an hour away at the Frys.com Open.


AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Articles, videos and photos


Walker joined some exclusive company. He is only the fourth player in the last 20 years to win three times in his first eight starts to a season. The others are Tiger Woods (who has done it eight times), Phil Mickelson and David Duval.

For a brief moment, it looked as though Walker might have a chance to join Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia as players to lose a six-shot lead in the final round.

He was never seriously challenged until Johnson, and then Renner, put together a strong finish.

Johnson, a two-time winner at Pebble Beach, closed with a 66 on a card that included three bogeys. Renner, who had yet to make a cut all year, made five birdies on the back nine for a 67.

Walker made a 10-foot birdie on the 11th hole and was seemingly on his way.

But he hit a poor chip on the par-3 12th for a bogey. He three-putted the 13th for a bogey. He settled down for three simple pars and was two shots clear with two to play. Walker three-putted the 17th, missing a 3 1/2-foot par putt. He tried to play it safe on the 18th with an iron off the tee that found the right rough.

From 25 feet above the hole, he hit the birdie putt too hard and had one anxious moment.

''I hate three-putting,'' Walker said. ''I had two of them back there, and definitely didn't want another one on the last.''

Walker finished on 11-under 277 and earned $1.188 million, expanding his lead in the Ryder Cup standings to more than $1 million over Mickelson in second place. The Ryder Cup is based on PGA Tour earnings, though there are still four majors (which count double), three World Golf Championships and The Players Championship remaining.

For now, the stars are aligned for Walker better than anything he sees through his high-powered telescope.

''I just go out and play golf,'' Walker said. ''This is what I want to do and I've worked really hard to do it, to be here, and to be in this position and it's really cool.''

Jordan Spieth had to return Sunday morning to complete his third round, which ended with his sixth three-putt of the round for a 78. He faced Pebble at its most vicious throughout the third round, though he bounced back with a bogey-free 67 to at least tie for fourth with Kevin Na (69).

And he hasn't lost his sense of humor.

''Yesterday was a day where you want to play Pebble Beach in that weather once in your life,'' Spieth said. ''You just don't want it be Saturday when you're in the lead.''

Chalk it up to another learning experience for Spieth, who said his 36 putts were more a product of not having the speed than the less-than-smooth quality.

''I felt like I needed birdies when I didn't,'' he said.

Another strong finish belonged to Graeme McDowell, returning to Pebble for the first time since his U.S. Open title in 2010. He closed with a 67, happy with a week in which he would have settled for just knocking some rust off his game before heading to Riviera next week.

Outside of Walker, however, the big winner was Renner.

He was among the Web.com Tour graduates who played poorly in the four ''finals'' event that determine priority ranking, and struggled to get into tournaments. In his fifth start, he not only made his first cut, Renner earned a spot at Riviera next week and will be in better position to get into events over the next couple of months.

''It was pretty big,'' Renner said. ''I just knew I needed a good week. My back was up against the wall, and that's something I'm familiar with and I don't mind it. But I'm happy that I freed myself up a little bit for the rest of the year.''

DIVOTS: Jim Renner and John Harkey Jr., the CEO of Consolidated Restaurant Operations, Inc., won the pro-am portion of the tournament. ... Tim Wilkinson, playing in the final group with Jimmy Walker, closed with a 73 and tied for seventh. That gets him into the Northern Trust Open next week at Riviera. ... Walker was the fourth Pebble Beach winner since 1994 to shoot 74 in the final round – Johnny Miller in 1994, Dustin Johnson in 2010, and Graeme McDowell in the 2010 U.S. Open.

Getty Images

Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

Getty Images

Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

Getty Images

Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

Getty Images

Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”