Jimmy Walker outlasts Jason Day to capture 98th PGA Championship
Showing true grit and determination, Jimmy Walker proved it was finally his time, his turn.
Having never relinguished the lead at all in four days, including 36 holes Sunday, Walker saved his best for his final back nine with back-to-back birdies on holes 10 and 11 and a much-needed birdie on the 17th hole to capture his first major title at the 98th PGA Championship at historic Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.
“It’s surreal. I mean, it really is. I would have said it would have happened the last couple years, the way I was playing. I just had not quite played as well as I would have liked to this year but I knew it was close,” said Walker, who completed a 36-hole day with rounds of 66 and 67. “I felt some things were clicking last week. God, just to be in it and be there and have a chance and then to finish it off is just it’s so gratifying. I mean, it really is. Everything I’ve done up to this point, helped this happen.”
The 37-year-old Walker, who didn’t record a bogey in his last 28 holes, needed a two-putt for par on the final hole to put away a gallant and determined defending champion in Jason Day, who sank a thunderous 15-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole to trail by just one shot as Walker and playing partner Robert Streba where in the group behind.
Walker, who never led a round in a major prior to this week, made nine straight pars on his front nine before he jumpstarted his round with an up-and-down on the par-4, 438-yard 10th hole and followed with another birdie on the par-4, 418-yard 11th hole. He extended his lead to three after a much-needed eight-foot birdie putt on the par-5, 618-yard 17th hole prior to Day’s pressure eagle putt.
“Jason, when he holes out for eagle on the last hole doesn’t give me a whole lot of time to soak it in. It was still game time. If he makes birdie, I’ve got a couple to play with and I can relax a little bit, but I didn’t get to relax,” said Walker, who finished 14-under for the tournament. “I was standing out there on the fairway and Andy (Sanders, Walker’s caddie) and I both said, let’s go for it. I didn’t say this, but I figured, 19 times out of 20, you’re going to make a five going for the green from right there. We had a good front number, and that’s what we did, and went with it. We ended up having to make a little tester coming in and just buried it. It was awesome.”
The world’s No. 1 player finished runner-up alone for the second time in a major championship, the first to Rory McIlory in the 2011 U.S. Open.
“Yeah, a little disappointed, but you know what, at the end of the day, I came in here with not the greatest preparation. I’m very, very happy with how I played all week,” said Day, who finished the tournament at 13-under. “I know exactly how Jimmy feels, because I did exactly that last year. So it was actually quite nice to be able to see him celebrate with his family and friends there. I know exactly that feeling, and he’s a very deserving winner. So hats off, because I mean, it’s not easy to win tournaments, and he controlled himself pretty darn well all day. I’m very happy with the defense. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough.”
Daniel Summerhays finished alone in third place at 10-under and South Africa’s Branden Grace, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, and Brooks Koepka each tied for fourth place at 9-under.
With Walker’s victory, 17 of the 18 Championships conducted at Baltusrol since 1901 have been won by Americans, with the lone exception coming in 1903, when Scotland’s Willie Anderson won the U.S. Open on Baltusrol’s Old Course.