Walker on air
American in dreamland after holding off world No. 1 Day to win first Major
From missing the cut at the British Open two weeks ago to hoisting a Major golf trophy for the first time.
Jimmy Walker was still in dreamland yesterday morning (Singapore time), when he pulled off the astonishing feat at the US PGA Championship, sloshing 36 holes across soggy Baltusrol and out-duelling top-ranked defending champion Jason Day down the stretch to win.
"It's surreal," said the 37-year-old, who finished with a final-round three-under 67 to stand on 14-under 266.
"I just had not quite played as well as I would have liked to this year.
"Just to be in it and be there and have a chance and then to finish it off is just so gratifying. It's amazing."
Walker had not won since the US PGA Tour's Texas Open 16 months ago, falling out of the top 10 to 48th in the world rankings.
But, when he shared 21st at the Canadian Open between the British Open and the PGA Championship, Walker had an epiphany.
"Some stuff kind of clicked last week, literally in the last like nine holes," Walker said.
"Everything felt good. I kept it going. Finished off the round. Finished off the nine holes. It felt big to me. Like everything worked, like my head was there. I was in every shot."
In the final round yesterday morning, Walker holed out from a greenside bunker, chipping in from 45 yards to birdie the 10th hole.
When Day answered with a 22-foot birdie at the 11th, Walker rolled in a 30-footer on the same hole minutes later to reclaim a two-shot lead.
Walker sank an eight-foot birdie putt at 17 only to have Day eagle the 18th, forcing Walker to save par from the greenside rough.
He sank a tense three-foot par putt and the Wanamaker Trophy was his, along with US$1.8 million ($2.4m)
"Incredible finish, it really was. Just puts a smile on my face," Walker said. "Has not even really sunk in yet. It has been a whirlwind. But it's awesome."
"I wouldn't have called this, but it's huge," Walker said.
"It's nice to get into the position and keep the hammer down and keep making birdies and keep playing well. Kept working hard. It's just nice to see it pay off."
It helped that Baltusrol was where he met his caddie, Andy Sanders, at a US Amateur practice round.
"We've been together a long time. And to win our sixth event, first Major, here where we met, that's just cool," Walker said.
"It's special for both of us. It's pretty emotional. He grinded it out this week. He did a great job.
"He reads putts great. Didn't let me hit a shot until I was ready. Made sure everything was good. We did a great job this week communicating and talking shots. We were in sync."
Adding to the chemistry, Day is another of Walker's pals as the two park beside each other at events in their motor homes.
"We're the bus guys out here," Walker said. "We park next to each other every week and we see each other and we're good friends."
Day, meanwhile, is counting on the lessons learned from another near miss at a Major championship to pay off with the toughness to win other Majors later.
"It's just great to be in the position to be in contention and give this title defence a really good shot at winning it again," said the 28-year-old Australian, who like Walker, also fired a 67 yesterday morning. "It would have been nice to repeat."
Day has 13 top-10 finishes in 25 Major starts, his lone triumph coming in last year's US PGA at Whistling Straits.
Day said that the key to improvement, and winning Majors, is putting himself in the hunt over and over again.
"You can learn the most when you're in this position," he said. "This is how you grow as a player and as a person and get better. And hopefully, that yields more Major championship wins in the future."
Walker joined US Masters winner Danny Willett of England, British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden and fellow American Dustin Johnson, the US Open winner, as the first foursome of first-time Major winners in the same year since 2011.
"It shows that everybody is really good and everybody's got a chance to win," Walker said.
"It's just a matter of time. That's what I felt about myself and winning something like this." - AFP.
It’s special for both of us. It’s pretty emotional. He grinded it out this week. He did a great job.
— Jimmy Walker on his caddie Andy Sanders, whom he met on the Baltusrol course
Name: Jimmy Walker
Date of birth: Jan 16, 1979
Place of birth: Oklahoma Residence: Boerne, Texas
Turned pro: 2001
Joined US PGA Tour: 2006
PGA Tour victories: 5
Major championship wins: 1 (2016 PGA Championship)
Ryder Cup: 2014
266: Jimmy Walker 65-66-68-67
267: Jason Day 68-65-67-67
270: Daniel Summerhays 70-67-67-66
271: Branden Grace 70-68-66-67, Hideki Matsuyama 69-67-67-68, Brooks Koepka 68-67-66-70 272: Henrik Stenson 67-67-67-71, Martin Kaymer 66-69-71-66, Robert Streb 68-63-72-69
273: Tyrrell Hatton 71-68-66-68, Paul Casey 69-69-68-67, William McGirt 70-67-66-70
274: Padraig Harrington 71-70-65-68, Jordan Spieth 70-67-69-68
275: Adam Scott 70-67-69-69
276: Justin Rose 70-72-66-68, K.J. Choi 68-70-71-67, Louis Oosthuizen 68-70-70-68
277: Phil Mickelson 71-70-68-68, Zach Johnson 71-66-71-69, Rickie Fowler 68-68-71-70.