Jimmy Walker: A stroll in the park, sort of

Jimmy Walker began the fourth round of the Sony Open in Hawaii with a 2-shot lead. When he finished on Sunday, it was a tournament record 9. Waialae was not playing all that easy:

Today, you know, it seemed the wind was going to pick up, and it did.  It blew a lot harder than it did any other day so it did play more difficult today.

It was almost as if he was playing a different golf course than the other leaders; he shot 7-under 63, Scott Piercy shot 68 to finish 2nd and Harris English and Gary Woodland shot 69 to finish T3.

The foundation for the day was a text he received from his coach, Butch Harmon:

The whole thing was about keeping ‑‑ he sent me a text this morning, said, ‘Keep the pedal down, keep the pedal down today.  You’re playing good, so just keep the pedal down.’

That was kind of the mindset was be smart, be aggressive, make good shots and get some putts to go in.  And that’s kind of what ended up happening.

Except it didn’t start out that way, which was why it was all the more remarkable. Rather, he was incredibly patient while he waded through the 7 pars to get to his first birdie on 8…and then 9. He ended up making birdie on 7 of his last 11 holes:

I wanted to finish the day, finish the round.  I didn’t want to give anything back.  I didn’t want to make a bogey.  Andy kept telling me, finish it out, let’s make the putt.

That ardor began percolating when he went down for some coffee first thing in the morning and saw that Martin Kaymer let a 6-shot overnight lead in Abu Dhabi wither away to Frenchman, Gary Stal, by shooting 3-over to Stal’s 7-under:

I saw that this morning.  I went downstairs and got coffee and the telecast had just finished up — I think it had already finished.  Saw what had happened, and it’s a bummer.  I walked back up, and I told Erin, I said, winning is hard.  It just really is.  You just never know.

If Walker’s ascendancy into the top tier of world-class players seems to have taken him a little longer than someone with his obvious talent, that’s because it did. He injured his neck in Hawaii in 2005 and it took him until 2009 before he was fully recovered:

I was out for ‑‑ I only played nine tournaments [in 2005] and then took a medical, and then struggled for the next three or four years trying to figure out what was going on.  So it took a while.

So with Kaymer blowing a big lead (with a double and a triple bogey), what was it like when Walker had opened up his own big lead?

It was weird because I’ve never — I had a six‑shot lead with about nine to go last year at Pebble Beach.  And same kind of deal.  It was just like I didn’t want to give any back.  I wanted to see if I could keep adding to it.

And that’s kind of what I talked about at the beginning of the week.  If I got back to that position, could we really try to extend the lead instead of just hang on.  I’m not saying I was hanging on or anything or trying to hang on last week or today.  I still was hitting the shots.  But just made some putts to really kind of distance us today. I just kept making putts.  That’s the difference I think.

At the close of his media center, we were reminded of one of the ways that Walker achieves balance in his life, he’s an astronomy buff. He lives in greater San Antonio, Texas, and has a remotely controlled telescope in New Mexico. He has become quite a good photographer of the celestial skies. He’s now built a small 11 by 15 “little house” at his home (with a matching motif) to put another automated telescope together that he can control when he’s on the road.

If you have to have something else that you’re into to have an identity outside of what we do in your professional life, and I feel like I’ve got that.

You’ve just gotta take it all in. I feel like I’m very good at doing the astronomy stuff and I’m good at doing the golf stuff and you have to take it all in and enjoy it and enjoy the good times.

Like today, just really tried to soak it all in, try not to wish the round away, like ‘Man, I want to get this over with, don’t stand out there on 15, let’s go in, I want to get in and get this done.’ [Rather]  I was really trying to soak it all in.

And soak up all the glory that comes with it. Impressive piece of work. He’s defending at Pebble Beach in three weeks. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

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