Late surge leads Walker to victory at Waialae
HONOLULU (AP) – Jimmy Walker went seven years and 187 tournaments before he finally won on the PGA Tour. Now he seems to have it figured out.
Walker pulled away from the pack with three straight birdies on the back nine of Waialae on Sunday and closed with a 7-under 63 to win the Sony Open for his second tour victory in his last six starts.
“It took me a long time to do it,” Walker said. “I felt very calm and controlled. That’s what you’ve got to feel and do when it’s time to win. It’s easy to say, hard to do. But today was awesome. Really cool golf.”
This wasn’t easy.
The final round was so tight there was a five-way tie for the lead with two hours remaining.
Walker’s big run began with a 12-foot par on the 14th hole. One shot behind Harris English, Walker rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole, and took the outright lead when English – behind him in the final group – failed to save par from a bunker.
Walker made a 7-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and stuck his tee shot into 6 feet for birdie on the par-3 17th. A par on the last hole made him wait just a little bit longer.
Chris Kirk had a 30-foot eagle chip from just short of the green on the par-5 18th that would have forced a playoff. It stayed right of the hole, and Kirk made the birdie putt for a 66 to finish alone in second place.
Jerry Kelly (65) was alone in third. English never recovered from his bogey. He missed birdie putts on the last three holes for a 67.
Walker won the Frys.com Open in October, the first tournament of the new wraparound season. As the first multiple winner on the PGA Tour this season, he went to No. 1 in the Ryder Cup standings and is closing in on cracking the top 30 in the world.
Walker finished at 17-under 263 and earned $1.08 million. He already qualified for his first Masters by winning in October. Now he’s piling up the wins.
With so many players in contention, the key was to keep bogeys off the card. Walker had made at least two bogeys in each of the three previous rounds, and it looked as if he was headed for one at the wrong time on the 14th hole when he chipped from an awkward stance near the bunker to about 12 feet. Kelly missed a 15-foot par putt from the same line, and Walker poured it in.
And then, he was off to the races.
Masters champion Adam Scott, in the first group on the back nine, went out in 30 and was one shot out of the lead just as the final group was starting play. Scott hit too many poor drives to keep it going, and the way the final two groups played the back nine, it wouldn’t have mattered. Scott tied for eighth (seven shots behind), and after a tie for sixth last week at Kapalua, heads into a six-week hibernation before returning to golf in Florida.
The three players with the best shots at winning all won last fall in the early part of the wraparound season – Kirk at the McGladrey Classic, English in Mexico.
Kirk, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round, made birdie on the 17th hole to stay within two shots of the lead and at least entertain the idea of eagle. His approach out of the rough needed about two more hops on the firm turf at Waialae to get on the green.
English ran off two birdies around the turn, took the outright lead with an 8-foot birdie on the 14th, and that was as close as he got.
“Just started hitting it better, but started putting a little worse,” English said.
Will Wilcox, a rookie who played with a yellow golf ball, made only one birdie in a round of 71. He was in a large group at 10-under 270 that included Kapalua winner Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Charles Howell III, Retief Goosen and Pat Perez.