Loading scores...
The Takeaway

Walker bags first major title

by Mo Yoshimoto
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

98th PGA Championship:

 

 

Before we get to the particulars, let’s begin with the fact that Jimmy Walker defeated the strongest field ever assembled in the history of the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).

 

All 50 of the top 50 OWGR were in the field at the 98th PGA Championship and 97 of the top 100, contributing to an event rating of 923. For comparative purposes, here were the Strength of Field ratings for the season’s first three major championships:

 

  • 80th Masters: 798
  • 116th U.S. Open: 839
  • 145th Open Championship: 883

 

Now then, the particulars.

 

Third-round leader Walker fired a bogey-free 3-under-par 34-33=67 in the final round to post 14-under 266, good for a one-shot victory over defending champion Jason Day and his first major title in his 18th career major championship start.

 

The 37-year-old claims his sixth PGA TOUR title in his 258th career event, first since the 2015 Valero Texas Open, which he also led after 54 holes. He improves to 4-for-5 when leading/co-leading at the three-quarter pole (T2, 2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions).

 

The Boerne, Texas, resident led or co-led after each of the first three rounds. Coming in, he hadn't led after ANY round this season:

 

R1: One-shot lead over three players

R2: Co-led with Robert Streb

R3: One-shot lead over Day

 

Note: Due to inclement weather, the third round on Saturday was suspended at 2:14 p.m. ET and later abandoned at 5:56 p.m. Only 37 players had completed their respective rounds leaving 49 stranded, including 10 who had yet to hit a single shot.

 

Walker was one of the 10 who had to complete 36 holes on Sunday. He began the finale on 11-under and though Day was his closest pursuer (-10), Walker played out of the final twosome with Streb, as there was no re-pairing between Rounds 3 and 4.

 

The Oklahoma City native striped a week-best 10 (of 14) fairways and 16 greens in regulation. He opened with nine straight pars on eight GIR, getting up-and-down for a ‘4’ on the seventh. At the turn, he still led by one:

 

Jimmy Walker: -11 (thru nine holes)

Henrik Stenson: -10 (11 holes)

Jason Day: -10 (10)

Branden Grace: -9 (F)

Daniel Summerhays: -8 (15)

Hideki Matsuyama: -8 (13)

Brooks Koepka: -8 (11)

Robert Streb: -8 (9)

 

After the break, Walker flipped the switch, holing out from a greenside bunker at 10 (44’10” away) for birdie-3 – the only green he missed on the back nine – and went back-to-back with a conventional 30-footer on 11. Five pars later, he drained a clutch left-to-right birdie on the par-5 17th from 8'5”, which in the end, provided the winning margin.

 

In an odd way, Walker created his own bit of drama on the par-5 18th. Previously, he had hit driver the first three times he played it, 340 yards, 309 yards, and 303 yards, respectively. Needing only a par to win, Walker made the correct choice by playing it as a three-shotter, hitting less-than driver 240 yards.

 

For some reason, he THEN chose to GO for the green in TWO from 287 yards away, ending up right of the surface in the deep rough, 29 yards from the target.

 

Walker managed to get up-and-down however, two-putting from 33’10” to secure the victory. For the week, he was No. 1 in Scrambling (stats below), so maybe that factored into the decision-making process.

 

This was the 2nd playing of the PGA at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey. Phil Mickelson, who finished T33 on 3-under 277 (71-70-68-68), won the 2005 edition with an aggregate of 4-under 276.

 

The 7,428-yard par-70 layout (34-36) played over-par the first two rounds and under-par the final two rounds. The cumulative scoring average was 70.406.

 

SIDE-NOTE SACRILEGE: The final round was played with PREFERRED LIES for the first time in tournament history. Further, it was (perhaps) the FIRST time EVER in major championships that players had ball-in-hand.

 

Making his sixth PGA appearance, Walker posted rounds of 65-66-68-67 for a 15.622 in SG: Total. His previous best at the PGA (and in majors) was T7 in 2014 at Valhalla GC (par 71). Coming in, Walker had missed three of five cuts at the PGA, including last year (by two) at Whistling Straits (75-73=148).

 

With the win, the Baylor University product earns a FIVE-year exemption on TOUR and FIVE-year exemptions into the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship, and THE PLAYERS. It also comes with a lifetime exemption into the PGA Championship.

 

The win comes in his 20th start of the season and is his fourth top 10, first since solo sixth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship the first week of March. His season best was T4 at the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January.

 

Walker entered the week off a T14 at the RBC Canadian Open (70-72-71-68), which in a possible sign of things to come, was tied for top Group 2 pick in Golf Channel with Chris Kirk.

 

He was the fourth first-time major winner of 2016, fifth dating back to Day at last year’s PGA, and won as a pre-tourney 125/1 outright. In the season’s first three majors, Walker posted: T29/Masters; CUT/U.S. Open; CUT/Open Championship.

 

2016 Major Winners (odds):

 

Walker reaps 600 FedExCup (FEC) points, jumping from 50th in the FEC standings to 14th, and jumps from 48th in OWGR to 15th. His career-high OWGR is 10th after the 2015 Shell Houston Open.

 

More importantly to Walker, who’s previously stated he never wants to miss another Ryder Cup again, he leaps from 29th in the Ryder Cup standings to FOURTH (double points were awarded for the majors). Walker went 1-1-3 in his debut two years ago at Gleneagles, winning his singles match over Lee Westwood 3 and 2.

 

Here are some key qualifying dates for the U.S. Team:

 

  • Sunday, August 28th: The top 8 are finalized at the conclusion of The Barclays (first FEC Playoffs event).
  • Sunday, September 11th: Davis Love III will select three (of four) Captain’s Picks at the conclusion of the BMW Championship (penultimate Playoffs event).
  • Sunday, September 25th: Love III will make his FINAL Captain's Pick at the conclusion of the TOUR Championship.  

 

The Ryder Cup is September 30th – October 2nd at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.

 

 

Winner’s Weekly Stats (ranking of 86 players):

 

Birdies: 19 (2nd)

Bogeys: 5 (T4)

 

Par-3 Scoring: 2.81 (T5)

Par-4 Scoring: 3.81 (1st)

Par-5 Scoring: 4.75 (T51)

 

Driving Distance: 284.1 yards (63rd)

Driving Accuracy: 34/56 (T43) at 60.71 percent

Greens in Regulation: 55/72 (T12) at 76.39 percent

Proximity to Hole: 34’11” (64th)

Putts per GIR: 1.764 (9th)

Total Putts: 115 (4th); by round: 25-28-31-31

Scrambling: 14/17 (1st) at 82.35 percent

 

SG: Off-the-Tee: 1.482 (30th)

SG: Approach-the-Green: 4.018 (15th)

SG: Around-the-Green: 4.909 (2nd)

SG: Tee-to-Green: 10.409 (4th)

SG: Putting: 5.213 (10th)

 

 

Golf Channel Perfect Picks ($3,965,000):

 

Group 1: Jason Day (2nd): 1,080,000

Group 2: Branden Grace; Hideki Matsuyama; Brooks Koepka (T4): $405,000

Group 3: Jimmy Walker (Won): $1,800,000

Group 4: Daniel Summerhays (3rd): $680,000

 

 

Draw:

 

In total, 86 players from a field of 136 pros and 20 club pros made the cut on 2-over 142. None of the club pros made the grade.

 

49 (of 78) EARLY/late advanced

37 (of 78) LATE/early

 

 

Of the SIX top-finishers in Golf Channel, FIVE were EARLY/late, including the champion, with only Summerhays emerging from LATE/early.

 

Jimmy Walker (Won): EARLY/late

Jason Day (2nd): EARLY/late

Branden Grace (T4): EARLY/late

Hideki Matsuyama (T4): EARLY/late

Brooks Koepka (T4): EARLY/late

 

Daniel Summerhays (3rd): LATE/early

 

 

Yahoo! Low Rounds:

 

R1: Jimmy Walker (65)

R2: Robert Streb (63) *30th player to shoot 63 in a major, third this season

R3: Padraig Harrington; Kevin Kisner (65)

R4: Joost Luiten; Soren Kjeldsen (65) * ball-in-hand

 

 

Bogey-free Rounds:

 

R1: Russell Henley (68); Robert Streb (68)  

R2: William McGirt (67); Jim Furyk (67); Tyrrell Hatton (68); Soren Kjeldsen (69)

R3 (SAT): Padraig Harrington (65); Russell Knox (67)

R3 (SUN): Brooks Koepka (66); Jason Day (67)

R4: Soren Kjeldsen (65); Kyle Reifers (66); Kevin Na (66); Jimmy Walker (67); Francesco Molinari (67); Hideto Tanihara (67); Matthew Fitzpatrick (67); Hideki Matsuyama (68) * ball-in-hand

 

 

What We Learned:

 

The pre-tourney odds-favorites have won just TWICE this season thru 39 events and Jordan Spieth has both of them, winning the DEAN & DELUCA and the Hyundai TOC. The World No. 3 finished T13 this week on 6-under 274 (70-67-69-68).

 

World No. 2 Dustin Johnson and World No. 4 Rory McIlroy (two-time PGA champ) were the pre-tourney co-faves at 8/1 AND BOTH MISSED THE CUT.

 

Johnson mustered just TWO birdie-2s over 36 holes and missed the cut by SEVEN (77-72=149), ending his TOUR-leading consecutive cuts made streak at 25, and McIlroy (74-69=143), needed only a par on the 18th, which played as the easiest hole of the week, but slopped his way to bogey-6, missing the cut by one. It was his first MC at the PGA in eight appearances. Thru 36 holes, the Ulsterman exited No. 1 in SG: Off-the-Tee but 151st (of 156) in SG: Putting.

 

 

Jason Day: The defending champ and World No. 1 was third-highest on the book-makers list at 10/1. If you followed the above prescription and took him in Group 1 instead of co-faves DJ or Rory, you were highly rewarded with solo second.

 

The Aussie was making his seventh PGA appearance and departs with his fourth top 10. He was chasing his second major title in his 25th career major but settles for his fourth runner-up.

 

This writer was scared away by his late arrival (Tuesday) and an emergency room visit for his wife (food allergy) that extended into the wee hours Wednesday morning. What was reinforced here is that is normal for Day, pretty much, and he's the top-ranked player on the planet for a reason. 

 

In a spirited defense, the 28-year-old rallied for a 3-under-par 34-33=67 in the final round, including a closing eagle-3 at the last, but came up one short on 13-under 267 (68-65-67-67).

 

En route to T14 at last week’s RBC Canadian Open, where he also was defending, Day ranked 79th (of 80) in driving accuracy at 30.36 percent (17/56). This week, he was T70 (of 86) at 53.57 percent (30/56). The takeaway is distance usually trumps accuracy on longer tracks, BUT, on courses with thick, deep rough, it wears on you, especially when you have to play 36 holes in one day.

 

Day collects 330 FEC points, retaking the top spot from Dustin Johnson by 34 points. Among his nine top 10s in 16 starts, he has three wins, one second, and one T3.

 

Henrik Stenson: Rounding out the top 5 OWGR, the World No. 5, going for back-to-back majors, finished in a three-way T7 on 8-under 272 (67-67-67-71). Of the 12 players who finished in the top 10, he was the only one in his 40s. The Swede also had to play 36 holes on Sunday.

 

 

There were 28 first-time PGAers at Baltusrol and five (of 17) PGA TOUR rookies. Note: STM Byeong Hun An became rookie eligible after the U.S. Open.

 

Emiliano Grillo: For the SEVENTH time this season in 21 starts, including his win at the season-opening Frys.com, the 23-year-old was top rookie with T13 on 6-under 274 (66-67-73-68). It was his second PGA (T61/2015).

 

While the definition of TOUR “rookie” has changed over the years, he went 4-for-4 in the majors in 2016, which has to be some sort of record. The Argentine’s finishes this year: T17 (Masters), T54 (U.S. Open), T12 (The Open), and now T13. It was his eighth top 25 of the season and ranks 27th in the FEC standings.

 

Kyle Reifers (70-70-70-66) and Billy Hurley III (72-65-69-70) were the top first-timers on 4-under 276, T22.

 

 

Surprises:

 

Daniel Summerhays: Making just his second PGA appearance (T33/2014), the 32-year-old painted a 4-under-par 34-32=66 in the final round, birdieing five of his final seven holes, to post 10-under 270, up five spots to solo third, and a career best in his sixth major appearance.

 

After opening in even-par 70, he closed in 67-67-66. For the week, the BYU product was T59 in GIR and 82nd in Proximity, but was 2nd in SG: Putting, 4th in putts per GIR, and 4th in putts made from greater than 10 feet (13).

 

Summerhays now has two top 10s this season in 23 starts and the other was also at a major, T8 (as an alternate) at the U.S. Open, T4 thru 54 holes. He owns two career runner-up finishes in 161 career events, the last was T2 at the VTO, but this was his biggest haul.

 

The Utah native and resident vaults from 89th in OWGR to a career-best 53rd, and moves 18 places to 39th in the FEC standings.

 

 

Up Next:

 

The TOUR kicks off August with the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands. The tournament, typically a June event, welcomes back two-time champ Bubba Watson, last year’s playoff winner over Paul Casey.

 

Stay tuned to this space for all the latest player news and opinions as the TOUR readies for its 40th tournament of the season. Inclusive of this week, there are just THREE events remaining before the start of the FEC Playoffs.