PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- To say Jimmy Walker didn't get the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am off to a blazing start might be an understatement.
Walker opened with a double bogey on his first hole at Spyglass Hill and was 4 over through his first eight. He played the back nine in 32, though, and has not looked back -- and now finds himself with a chance to win his first PGA TOUR event on Sunday after a third-round 63.
Walker didn't make a bogey at Monterey Peninsula Country Club on Saturday and vaulted 21 spots up the leaderboard in the process. When he finished his round, Walker was just one stroke off the lead.
"Everything feels pretty good," Walker said. "... To be here right now, after the first four holes I was like, are you kidding me? But I've been hitting it well. Just been hitting it solid and keeping it right in there front of me."
Walker's birdie putts on Saturday came from 12, 12, 6, 6, 20, 25 and 12 feet. He also had a 6-footer at the 18th hole that stubbornly refused to fall but the 63 was still a career low, eclipsing the 64 he shot in the second round at The Greenbrier last year.
" There wasn't any wind to speak of out there and you could fire at every flag and the greens are pretty receptive," Walker said. "So I watched (the leaderboard) a little bit. … I think it's fun to watch and watch what's going on and see your name up there. That's why you're out here -- why you're playing."
Walker is coming off the best season of his TOUR career with six finishes in the top 25 and just under $1 million in earnings. But he tore the meniscus in his right knee at The Greenbrier last year -- he said it felt like a "guitar string plucking" -- and ended up having arthroscopic surgery at the end of the Deutsche Bank Championship.
“I could not get through onto my left side, so we decided to shut the year down and get it fixed,” Walker explained.
Doctors originally said he'd lost 30 to 40 percent of his strength in that knee. All in all, though, the recovery was quick. Walker was able to hit balls four days after the surgery, and his hard work during the extended break appears to be paying dividends in more ways than one.
"I think you just get more and more comfortable every year," Walker said. "I've worked on a lot of stuff in the off season. ... Some of it was just strategy on playing rounds, and it's nice to see what we have been doing and working on is starting to pay off which is nice."
Walker won three times on the Nationwide Tour, including twice in 2004 when he was named the circuit's Player of the Year, but he is still looking for his first victory in four seasons on the PGA TOUR. His best finish is a tie for third at last year's Valero Texas Open, and he tied for fourth earlier this year at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
On Sunday, he’ll have another chance.
"I've won on the Nationwide Tour, and you can draw on that," Walker said. "I think it will be fun. A lot of guys, there's guys right up at the top that haven't won and somebody is going to do it. It's a tough golf course tomorrow. The greens are going to be really firm and they are just going to get firmer and firmer I think." -- Helen Ross
Editor’s note: Walker’s wife, Erin, writes a blog – TOUR Wife Travels – that is published on PGATOUR.COM. To read her blog about Pebble Beach, click here. And here is her latest tweet: “Moving day and my man @JimmyWalkerPGA made a serious move! Lil' 63 at MPCC!”
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Jimmy Walker has just finished off a career-low round of 63 at Monterey Peninsula County Club which ties for the low round of the tournament there.
His bogey-free round has moved Walker into a tie for second with Bryce Molder at 11 under. Molder has seven holes remaining at Spyglass Hill.
Meanwhile, Steve Marino, who is also playing at Monterey Peninsula, has recovered from a shaky start and is even through 12 holes. He owns the lead at 13 under.
Walker is one of many players at the top of the leaderboard still seeking their first PGA TOUR victories. His best is a tie for third at last year’s Valero Texas Open.
The former Nationwide Tour Player of the Year finished solo fourth in his 2011 opener at the Sony Open in Hawaii. – Helen Ross