January 21, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- (Getty Images)
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Erin Walker texted her husband Jimmy as soon as she saw the tee times for the first two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open.
"You've got Woods and Spieth," she said -- as in Tiger and Jordan, the reigning Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year on the PGA TOUR, respectively.
"I'm like, sounds fun," Jimmy responded almost nonchalantly.
After all, Walker, who turned 35 last week, has certainly come into his own over the last few years. In fact, he leads the FedExCup after breaking through with wins in two of his last six starts on TOUR.
Of course, there was a time when Walker might have greeted that news differently. He's only played one hole -- not even one round -- with the world No. 1 and that was back in 2001 during a practice session for the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Walker was a senior at Baylor that year and he had used one of his parents' credit cards to pay the entry fee for the Monday qualifying. His parents told him not to try because it was during finals but he did it anyway -- and made the field.
"They were kind of happy, kind of mad," he recalled with a grin. "It all ended up working out."
Walker took one of those exams on Tuesday, then rushed to play a practice round on the Cottonwood Course. His caddy for the day was quick to point out Woods playing on the front nine.
"This is in '01 after he slammed it and all that, so he pretty much was owning everybody," Walker remembered.
Next thing he knows, Woods has skipped over to the hole Walker is playing. The two find themselves together on the next tee, and the conversation goes something like this.
"Hey, I'm Tiger. Hey, I'm Jimmy," Walker recalled. "He's like, 'Can I play through you? I'm trying to play real fast and get a couple holes in.' I said, 'Dude, you can do whatever you want.'
"So he tees off on the par 3 and I am literally shaking. I have every bad swing thought possible, don't shank it, top it, all that stuff. I make contact. I look up and it's heading right at it. Can't see it because it's kind of in the setting sun.
"We walked down there and he asked what's going on, I told him I Monday qualified. We talked and it was really cool and he was really nice."
Woods' ball lands about 15 feet from the pin while Walker was about 6 feet away. The Texan doesn't remember if they even attempted the putts but he won't soon forget how he felt.
"I can remember thinking, I was like, Man, if I was that nervous and I hit that good of a shot, I said I guarantee I will never be that nervous again my entire life ever," Walker said. "If I hit that good of a shot, man, I think I'm going to be okay."
Walker went on to shoot a more-than-respectable 72-68 and miss the cut by one shot. He remembered the experience a month later when he turned pro and played in his first U.S. Open where among his practice round partners was Nick Faldo.
"It was so easy compared to that one shot," Walker sai.d "That's my one hole with Tiger."