By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Jimmy Walker did a great job making birdies the entire week, he led the tournament with 24 of them. However, his biggest putts on Sunday were for bogey and par. The Texan salvaged a bogey at the fifth hole with a 17-foot putt and then made a 28-footer for par on the sixth. Sometimes, it’s the one-putt pars and bogeys that give a golfer as much momentum as a birdie. Those putts kept Walker in the tournament and when Brooks Koepka stumbled, Walker was positioned to win the tournament.
Putting stroke: It’s easy to pinpoint the exact moment when Brooks Koepka’s round unraveled. It was undone on the ninth green with miss on a 30-inch putt. A 44-foot birdie on the sixth hole had given him a four-shot lead but that evaporated in the span of 90 minutes. It started with the bogey at the ninth and was followed with another bogey on the 10th. Koepka’s stroke was beautiful all week long but over the final nine holes, his stroke got short and quick. Instead of working as a unit, his right hand overpowered the left and Koepka continually pulled short putts. He had played the 15th hole in 4 under during the first three rounds, but missed another short birdie on Sunday with the same pulled stroke that eliminated any chance at victory.
Changes: Vijay Singh has continually tinkered with his putting stroke and grip throughout his career and the changes were born of necessity. He was 179th in strokes gained-putting last season on the PGA TOUR so it’s no surprise a change was made. Singh has retained his modified claw grip but has ditched the long putter in favor of a more conventional length. How did it play out this week? Singh finished second, made 19 birdies and only four bogeys for the week to rank 34th in strokes gained-putting. History tells us the grip and putter are not permanent in Singh’s game but for the moment, he has to be happy with both the changes and results.
Conditions: Rain has plagued the PGA TOUR in recent weeks, so it was a pleasure to see a dry, firm golf course. CordeValle took on a “brown twinge” as the week progressed. The area has received virtually no rain since March, making for fast fairways. With a Northerly wind in the final round, players had to be careful with tee shots that rumbled, bounced and ran through fairways.
Persistence: Kevin Na teed off on Friday with a simple goal: make the cut. He had opened play with a 75 but rallied with a 67 in the second round to make the cut. Na then posted rounds of 64-64 on the weekend for a T3 finish. That momentum should serve him well at next week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, where he won in 2011.
Struggle: Several players looked at the final leaderboard and regretfully said, “I could have shot that.” You can count Jason Kokrak among that number. He struggled home with a final-round 73 and T12 finish. Kokrak generates so much clubhead speed that it’s sometimes difficult to control distance with wedges and that negates the advantage his monstrous drives provide. Jason led the tournament in driving distance with a 331.5-yard average but hit just 68 percent of his greens in regulation to rank T51 in that category.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.