Inside the record FedExCup run
Early wins, consistent play have kept Jimmy Walker atop the FedExCup standings for 35 of 36 weeks
July 30, 2014
By Chris Dunham, PGATOUR.COM
- In the FedExCup chase, Jimmy Walker has stood alone for much of the 2013-14 PGA TOUR Season. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
No matter how things unfold in the FedExCup race for the remainder of the 2013-14 PGA TOUR Season, we've already seen a historic performance.
Jimmy Walker has spent a record 35 weeks atop the FedExCup standings, including the last 29 in a row. Prior to this campaign, no one has occupied the top spot in the standings for more than 26 consecutive weeks.
Only one week this season has Walker not led the standings. That will prevent him from going wire-to-wire, but what he's done thus far is arguably more difficult than going to wire-to-wire during a four-day event.
How has Walker turned in such a dominant performance in 2013-14?
The quick answer is that he won early and often. Walker won three times before the calendar turned to March, with one of those wins coming in the season-opening stretch last fall.
Three titles is impressive, but three in the season's first dozen events -- and, for Walker, in his first eight starts -- is staggering. To put it into perspective: In the FedExCup era, just two other players have won three or more regular-season events prior to the start of the Playoffs. Tiger Woods has done it multiple times -- five wins in 2007, 2009 and 2003, four wins in 2008, three wins in 2012 -- and Kenny Perry won three regular-season events in 2008. Of course, Tiger added to his victory total with Playoffs wins in '07, '08 and '09.
Others have won three or more events by the end of the season, but their totals also included Playoffs wins. For instance, in 2012, Rory McIlroy won twice in the regular season and twice more in the Playoffs to finish with a four-win season on TOUR.
Recall what Walker said after his breakthrough win at the Fry.com Open, the first of his TOUR career at age 34: "I had always wondered, 'Will it change the way you think about things if you win?'" he said. "But I want to stay hungry .. When you win, I think you want to win again and then you want to win again."
That "win again" mentality has paid off.
It's not just the victories, though, as Walker earned 1,500 points for his titles, which would place him 10th in the current FedExCup standings. It's been Walker's season overall that has made him stand out. In addition to his first three TOUR titles, Walker has set career highs in both top-25 finishes (15) and top-10 showings (8), the latter placing him second on TOUR behind Matt Kuchar.
After his third title of the season in early February at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Walker didn't give anyone hope of catching him with top-25 finishes in his next six starts before missing the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship. He then added top 10s at THE PLAYERS Championship, Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and the U.S. Open in three of his next four starts.
Walker has met and topped every challenge he's faced this year. Webb Simpson unseated him atop the standings at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and Walker won the very next week at the Sony Open in Hawaii to reclaim the top spot.
"Everybody makes a big deal about being No. 1 (in the FedExCup)," he said after his win at Waialae. "It is cool and it is a big deal, and I think all those guys out there today wanted to jump into that spot. I sure did, and I know it's January, but it's a long way to September, and every little bit helps."
Harris English cut his lead to below 300 points after the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Walker responded with his win at Pebble Beach the next week.
Bubba Watson won the Masters to cut Walker's advantage to just 206 points and Walker countered with top 10s at THE PLAYERS and Crowne Plaza to push his advantage back up to nearly 400 points.
Watson is one of three players with two wins this season. He has seven top-10s, so he comes up just shy of Walker in both of those categories. The other multiple-winners have not shown that kind of consistency. Martin Kaymer has two of the biggest wins on TOUR -- THE PLAYERS and the U.S. Open -- but those are his only top-10 finishes in his last dozen starts. Patrick Reed also has two wins and as many top-10 finishes.
Kuchar, as noted earlier, leads the TOUR in top-10s. Having just one win, though, has kept him from catching Walker, who simply hasn't given any of his chasers an opening.
Think about this: Walker enters this week's World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Championship off his worst two-start stretch of the season, a missed cut at The Greenbrier Classic and a tie for 26th at The Open Championship. That's the only time all season in which he has played two consecutive tournaments without a top-25 finish.
As we said, consistency.
LONGEST REIGNS ATOP FEDEXCUP STANDINGS
Year Player Consecutive weeks at No. 1 Final FedExCup position 2013-14 Jimmy Walker 29 weeks* ? 2008 Tiger Woods 26 weeks** 70th 2010 Ernie Els 22 weeks 9th 2013 Tiger Woods 22 weeks 2nd * Entering this week's World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational
** Woods won four times early in 2008 but did not play after winning the U.S. Open due to inury.
Now come the biggest challenges.
With 550 points on the line this week at Bridgestone Invitational, both Watson and Kuchar are in position to end Walker's reign atop the FedExCup standings. It's up to Walker to step up to the challenge once again and, if we've learned anything this season, we can expect a strong performance from him at Firestone CC.
While history may be against the long-time leader finding FedExCup success (see table above), Walker has some things in his favor, as well.
There are two grand opportunities to improve upon his lead in the next two weeks. He's making his first start at Bridgestone before hopping over to Kentucky for next week's 600-FedExCup-point PGA Championship.
Walker had never played a World Golf Championship event prior to this season but has two top-25s in three starts in 2013-14 in these events which guarantee FedExCup points to all who compete.
Next week will mark Walker's fourth career start in a PGA Championship (most starts of any major). Walker has top-10 finishes in both majors that have been contested on U.S. soil this season. Just two other players -- Rickie Fowler (22nd in points) and Brandt Snedeker (83rd) -- can match that boast.
Then comes the season's biggest stretch of events -- the four-week FedExCup Playoffs. Walker has fared OK in those events in the past -- nine made cuts in 11 starts with three top-25 finishes. But the Playoffs have never seen Walker playing with so much confidence and so much on the line.
Thanks to his performance during the season, Walker won't have to sweat out a spot in the top 30 who advance to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. That should give him more freedom to play his game in the Playoffs and not worry about escaping the week-to-week bubble as he has in years past. Still, he'll have plenty of incentive to remain in the top five heading into East Lake, since those are the players who control their own fate.
Much can happen in the coming weeks, but three things are certain: 1) Walker has already made history and will be trying to make more in the coming weeks; 2) He will have a chance to win the FedExCup at East Lake; and 3) It will be a lot of fun to see how it all unfolds.