In his sixth start of the year, Jimmy Walker “validated” that he is a winner at the Sony Open in Hawaii. It was a great accomplishment to break through to his first career win at this year’s Frys.com Open, the first of the year, but Sunday’s win at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu moved him to another level as a player. Notwithstanding how hard it is to win a PGA Tour tournament, he proved that he wasn’t just a flash in the pan by winning two.
It took him 188 tournaments to win his first one and 193 to win the second. An important ingredient to winning is moving from believing you can do it to knowing that you can do it. And much of that comes from knowing that you belong in the winner’s circle. Did this long sought after success give him any more of a sense of belonging?
Yeah, I think I do. I’ve always felt like I belonged and you need affirmation every now and then, and the win a couple months ago was like, yeah, okay, I can do it. I did it, I was supposed to be able to do it, everybody told me I was supposed to do, and I finally did it.
And then everybody is — then it’s, well, are you going to be the guy that won and you never hear from again or are you going to win again and are you going to win again. I’ve always felt like I could, and it’s nice to get it done and do it again today. I think every win you have is probably going to be different than the other ones.
Confirming that winning is a building-block process, it’s also true that the win at Frys.com helped him win the Sony. He finally discovered that the idea is to control your emotions so that it feels like any other day:
It did. You learn so much out here, and it took me a long time to do it, and I feel like I did learn a lot this week. I felt very calm and controlled, so everything is kind of the same. 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. I felt in control all day, emotions [in control].
With his low round of the day, 63, he deserved to win. But it didn’t exactly look like it was going to happen for him as the round unfolded. He birdied the 2nd and then couldn’t make another until the 9th:
My caddie, I think, on 8, I didn’t get a great look into the green from there, and he just said, let’s get par out of here and hit a good drive down 9 and we’ll get it going at 9, and that’s kind of what we did. So it was pretty cool.
The watchword all week long from many of the players was “patience.” And that’s what made the difference for Walker:
I don’t know, I stayed patient. I said if I didn’t make any bogeys today I had enough firepower this week. I kept making a bunch of bogeys this week and didn’t have any today. I made a really key par putt over on 14 which was really big, and then a string of birdies there which was pretty awesome.
And then he made five more birdies on the back, the most important stretch at 15, 16 and 17 because he hadn’t even been on the radar at that point and he needed them all:
I knew I was one back going into 15 and made birdie, and then when I got to 16 green, I saw that Harris [English] had made bogey, so I knew I had a two‑shot lead. And then birdied 17, so I had a three‑shot lead. And then I got to 18, I didn’t know that [Chris] Kirk had made a birdie, I guess, somewhere, on 17.
When Kirk came up just short of the par 5 18th green with his second shot, he elected to chip for eagle to get into a playoff with Walker. He played a bold shot that went a little longer than he would have liked:
I was really just trying to stay aggressive and chip it in but hit it terrible. It was a terrible shot. I got a little excited, I guess…
His comeback birdie putt was impressive and locked up 2nd for him. Even though he didn’t win, it was a great week:
Just another solid week of golf. That’s kind of what I’m trying to do every week, what we’re all trying to do every week. I’m just thankful that it’s been going my way lately. I know how hard this sport is, so just going to enjoy it while I’m playing well.
Having won the McGladrey Classic, the last full-field event in calendar year 2013, he too now goes on in search of his second win.
Walker began working with Butch Harmon almost two years ago and I thought the timeline and its dynamics were quite interesting:
The first time I saw him was two years ago in February, so almost two years. Almost two years ago. I saw him after Riviera after a really good West Coast Swing and started working with him.
You know, just really like a four-hour lesson with him and then didn’t see him again for a while until maybe the summer. It wasn’t until the end of that year that it was more kind of official, I guess, something like that.
The relationship became a very nurturing one:
When I went and saw him, he said I believe in you and I believe you’ve got a lot of talent, and I think you’re under-utilizing what you’ve got. He said, I want to work and make things better, and I think it’s been great.
I really enjoy hanging out with him. He’s a very confident person. When he tells you something, you believe it. And it’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed my time with him, and I’m going to keep enjoying my time with him.
Finally, 47-year-old Jerry Kelly shot 65, his low round of the week, to finish 3rd by himself. And even he had a good learning experience:
Starting with a bogey, I was happy the way I came back, showed some good mental fortitude in there. It’s something I’ve been lacking in recent years. I tried to get myself to relax a little bit, work my way through the rest of my career and enjoy it, and that’s what I’m going to try and do.
Just another guy moving down the path in the best way he knows how.