By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
FARMINGDALE N.Y. -- Jimmy Walker knew when he teed off Thursday afternoon that Bethpage State Park's Black Course was probably as generous as it was going to be this week during The Barclays.
All he had to do was look at the 64 next to Padraig Harrington's name.
So Walker went out and took advantage, too -- firing a bogey-free 66 that left him in a tie with Pat Perez, Gary Christian and Sergio Garcia. Interestingly, he and Garcia dueled Monday at the Wyndham Championship with the Spaniard earning the win, four strokes ahead of Walker, who tied for fourth.
"The greens had started to firm up a little bit in the afternoon yesterday for the pro-am, and I said, well, if you can hit some fairways the greens are decently receptive, and I think there are some good scores out there," Walker said. "And the guys this morning showed it, I think."
Walker's round Thursday was 10 shots better than his best score on the Black Course in the 2002 U.S. Open. He shot 77-76 and missed the cut but said he was excited for another opportunity.
"It's a great golf course," Walker said. "It's really hard."
Walker got the day off to a positive start with an 18-footer for birdie at the first hole, then got up-and-down from behind the green at the par-5 fourth for his second. He birdied the other par 5 on the front with a 16-footer to make the turn in 33 and then added putts of 30 and 10 feet on the back nine.
Walker was equally pleased, though, by the par saves at the 17th and 18th holes to preserve the bogey-free round. Those were among eight one-putts on the back nine when he used the flat stick just 10 times. He had a total of 24 putts in the round.
"I putted really good," Walker said. "I don't think I hit a ton of greens on the back. I hit a couple really good shots, gave myself some looks, but just was fighting to get up and down, and I left myself in some good spots for up and downs, fat sides of the green, with the only exception 17."
Walker was actually surprised when someone told him he'd only had 10 putts on the back nine. He chalked it up to how focused he was, though.
"It's that whole mentality one shot at a time, don't look at the past, just keep plugging along, keep looking forward to your next shot," Walker said. "I really wasn't thinking about anything that had happened throughout the day, so just kept grinding away."