American Jimmy Walker held on with a final round 74, including an ice-cool five-footer on the 72nd-hole to post 11-under-par, 276 to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Sunday. Countrymen Dustin Johnson and Jim Renner rounded out the podium just one shot back on 10-under 274, securing T2.
Walker began Sunday with a commanding six-shot lead but lent the field a ray of hope with an opening bogey on No. 1. His steadying birdie on No. 2 righted the ship and the man who had ground out only ONE bogey on the week was on his way. He added another birdie on No. 8 to turn in 35 before the golf tournament was on again. Bogeys on three of the first four holes on the back side, sandwiched with a birdie, kept those in front of him with hope, but they were running out of holes. He scrambled well enough to keep his lead at one entering the final hole. Gamers can go back and point to the times when Walker has let them down but Sunday would not be a repeat performance. He converted his first-ever 36-hole lead ever this week, another example of how his game has evolved. His five footer on the 72nd hole secured his third victory in eight starts in the 2013-14 wraparound season and has cemented his place in history. He now joins Woods (a million times), Phil Mickelson (2005) and David Duval (1999) as the most recent players to win three events in their first eight starts of their respective seasons. If you read my preview articles and recap articles, you should be surprised; not shocked.
Walker decided through the first two rounds that hitting fairways wouldn’t be a big deal this week as he was right around 50%. He ranked T154 out of 156 players through the first two rounds in fairways hit but held a one-shot lead and had made a grand total of ZERO bogeys. He was the only player bogey-free in the field over the first two rounds. Read that again. He finished the week T59 in driving accuracy but he managed to post T6 in GIR and T12 in putts per GIR. I read, somewhat hilariously on Twitter, that once Walker found out how to putt, he would start contending/winning. Well, he was 47th in 2012 and 27th in 2013 but didn’t have a victory. Then, during the broadcast I learned that once Butch Harmon, his new coach in 2012, told him “don’t change a thing” on his putting stroke. Ah, Twitter, don’t you ever change! For the record, Walker was seventh entering the week in total putting but I’ll argue his swing, short-game and confidence has a bit to do with this run of successes as well!
Folks who read this column religiously, I thank you, will be the least surprised people that Walker played well this week at Pebble. His last three appearances have seen him post T9, T9 and T3 last year. He loves the West Coast and loves this event. Gamers were frustrated last time out when he MC at Torrey Pines but we told you that his wife, Erin (@tourwifetravels), relayed via Twitter that his capitulation was illness-based, not performance based. Some folks thought it was the “Tiger Effect”; I went with the horse’s mouth instead and I was rewarded for my belief. He was sick; just like his current game. Walker proved again this week that he belongs in the discussion every time he tees it up. He also proved that he has the nuts, guts and game to close it out on Sundays. Again. I’m glad I hitched my wagon to him early doors in 2013 and he pays off this week as my first One-and-Done (OAD) of the season.
Now, comes the tough part of fantasy gaming. The EASIEST part is jumping on guys who are getting ready or getting close to breaking through. The toughest part of fantasy gaming is getting on board too late. Jimmy Walker now has THREE WINS. Is it time to sell high? Is it time to buy high? I’ll let this sink in for a day or two but I’ll have my answer in this week’s chat with Rob Bolton Wednesday at noon ET at Rotoworld.com.
With this victory, Walker collects $1,188,000, 500 FedExCup points and is the front runner for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Not even I, with my love for him, had THAT on the radar for 2014!
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 12 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Scott Stallings and Kevin Stadler have hoisted the trophies this season.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. Jimmy Walker held his six-shot lead on Sunday to become the seventh 54-hole leader in 12 events to cash this season.
Vijay Singh, 1994, was the last foreign-born player to win at Pebble Beach.
Rookies don’t win here. Chesson Hadley, T10, gave it a noble showing.
Brandt Snedeker, MC, couldn’t join the exclusive list of greats to defend their title at Pebble Beach.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua and now Kevin Stadler, 33, at WMPO. Walker has now added TWO more victories to the guys currently in their prime! Scott Stallings, 28, Patrick Reed (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29) and Harris English, (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board. The Young Guns now have six of 12 wins to start the season. Hell, Walker has THREE of the six for the Prime-Timers! The Old Guys were by led by Phil Mickelson, 43, and his T19 this week. That’s an aberration on a historic course like this!
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Dustin Johnson: If gamers were surprised/shocked/confused by his T2 result this week then they aren’t paying attention. Johnson has finished T7, WIN, WIN, T55, T5 and T2 in his career at this event. Gamers will also breathe easier knowing that DJ doesn’t mind playing with his soon-to-be father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky, either. Or that his game will suffer that he’s engaged. He’s now first, T6 and T2 in three official events this season. He had three rounds of two-under par or better, including his Sunday-low 66, to reinforce he’s the game’s best weather player.
Jim Renner: He had two rounds in the 60s in four events this season. Those four events all resulted in MCs. He didn’t play one round on the PGA TOUR last season but earned promotion through his 17th place finish on the Web.com regular season money list. His last top 25 on any tour was last July in Utah. He missed 11 cuts in 23 events last year on the Web.com Tour so he’s not in my plans moving forward but well done this week!
Jordan Spieth: Another tournament, another fantastic 36 holes that saw him sit one shot off the lead. He’s 20, people. Twenty. Two Zero. He had a tough round on Pebble in the “breeze” on Saturday which led to six, three putts. He rallied, as usual, for a bogey-free 67 to vault him up 14 places on Sunday to T4. In two outings in this event, he’s now T22 and T4. If gamers keep fading him, just do it on Saturdays, but not for the whole tournament! He’s beyond the curve. #SpiethBoner.
Kevin Na: After his T4 this week, he now has three top 10s in eight events this season proving that his back problems are in his rear-view mirror. His last three events here have seen him post T5, T22 and now T4 so he’s a definite horse-for-course! His worst round in 2014 is 72 and that’s the only one above 70!
Hunter Mahan: In his last four trips to Pebble he’s carded finishes of second, T15, T16 and sixth this week. His Yahoo! value stunk on the weekend with rounds of 72-72 but his value to salary gamers was excellent, as usual. Back-to-back top six finishes show that he’s right on pace for a big week in LA or in Match Pay in the next two weeks.
Graeme McDowell: I’m not a big fan of playing guys off a large lay off but G-MAC proved again that form is temporary and class is permanent. The 2010 U.S. Open champ at Pebble Beach thought it was a major again as his 67 on Sunday sprung him up the leaderboard 32 places to finish T7. He claims he hates the wind and elements but his play on seaside courses (Harbour Town last year) proves he doesn’t! He finished fifth in strokes gained-putting and if that keeps up, watch out!
Pat Perez: I argued that his recent successes shouldn’t be ignored last week in the preview column and he continued his fine run of form in his native California with T7. His mastery of Poa annua (16th strokes gained-putting) and superb iron play (T6) led him to his fourth top 10 finish in five events in 2014. He’s back this week at Riviera so he should factor in your decision making.
Tim Wilkinson: Fairways and greens are his strong suit and this week was no different as he was T21 in fairways and T3 in greens en route to T7. He’s now made the cut in three of seven events this season yet two of those finishes have found the top 10. His last full season on the TOUR was 2010 so he’s slowly finding his way again. He’ll be useful on tight, ball-striking courses as opposed to long, strong tracks so keep that in mind moving forward.
Bryce Molder: Fresh from the horses-for-courses section, Molder continued his consistency at Pebble. THAT’S what gamers want; consistency. His last five postings are T10, T6, T69, T12 and T10 this season. Sometimes overthinking it with a veteran player on a track where they play well is just silly. Molder proved this point again this year. He’s not sexy but he scores. Sex, in fantasy golf, doesn’t always sell. Winning does.
Chesson Hadley: After T72 and T5 to open his maiden season on TOUR, Hadley rattled off five straight MCs, including his first three events of 2014. Not too many first-timers succeed around here but once Hadley got to Pebble this week, his game turned on point. He made two bogeys over his last two rounds, both on Pebble, to hit the top 10 for the second time in eight starts this year. Not bad for a maiden voyage. Rookies come and go but those who find a way to adapt and survive will always remain on my list moving forward.
Richard H. Lee: In seven starts this year his best finish was T35 in Malaysia. But, if you believe in horse-for-course, Lee, as he did me in my weekly draft, did the business with a T10. His birdie at No. 10 got him to seven-under and T2 but a double and two other bogeys had him reeling before his birdie four at No. 18 kept him in the top 10. In three starts at Pebble he’s finished T15, T12 and now T10. When in doubt, buy the trend!
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Jason Day: His 77 on Pebble on Friday sunk his chances at adding another top 10 to his resume on this track. I would have guessed the worse the weather, the better he would have played but his 71 on Saturday saw him miss the cut by a lone shot. It stinks but I’ll never let one bad round get in the way of a premium player moving forward. (sh)It happens.
Hunter Mahan: See above.
Dustin Johnson: See above.
Jimmy Walker: Bang, Triscuits!
Phil Mickelson: I ended up pairing him with Brandt Snedeker in the A group in Yahoo so I was forced to use him this week. He racked up rounds of +1 and +2 for me. His T14 helped salary gamers more than it did for me. Sigh.
Jordan Spieth: #SpiethBoner strikes again. See above.
Chris Kirk: His DFL performance this week saw his tee ball find some fairways but his iron play (T57) and putter (63rd) remained a cause for concern. Also, another solid early round, 68 on Friday, led to zero momentum on the weekend. I’m in a selling mode for now.
Graeme McDowell: See above.
Pat Perez: See above.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat WEDNESDAY at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the NTO and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.