Walker peaking at right time for Ryder Cup
The first-time major winner in position to achieve his goal of playing at Hazeltine
July 31, 2016
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Jimmy Walker won the PGA Championship at Baltusrol. (Kevin Cox/Getty Images)
SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Here are a few observations following the final round of the PGA Championship where Jimmy Walker won his first major championship. Walker closed with a 67 and beat the defending champion, Jason Day, by one stroke on a marathon Sunday.
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HEADING TO HAZELTINE?
Jimmy Walker saw Davis Love III earlier last week and told the U.S. Ryder Cup captain how much he wanted to be on his Ryder Cup team. Then he went out and proved it by winning the PGA Championship.
The victory was Walker’s first in a major championship and vaulted him from 29th to fourth in the Ryder Cup standings. There are four events remaining before the automatic eight qualifiers are determined and another two before Love makes his Captain’s Picks to complete the team that will take on the Europeans at Hazeltine National on Sept. 30.
Walker is certainly peaking at the right time. He made his U.S. debut two years ago at Gleneagles, and he still remembers TV announcer Mark Rolfing asking him what he thought about the experience.
“And I said, I never want to miss another one again,” Walker said. “I thought about that all year.”
Walker, who also played on last year’s victorious Presidents Cup team, felt like he learned a lot at the Ryder Cup. He went 1-1-3 but won his Singles match with Lee Westwood 3 and 2.
“I learned that I am not into every golf shot I hit week-in and week-out on TOUR,” Walker said. “And that week, every shot I hit, I was 100 percent committed. And it taught me that you can do that. I played great that week, I really did. I know we didn't win. It's not fun not winning.
“… The emotions you run through at these team events are huge, and I felt like I learned a lot about myself that week at The Ryder Cup, especially singles match the last day. It was crazy. I look forward to hopefully having a chance to do it here on our home turf this year.”
PLAYING THROUGH PAIN
On Tuesday, Brooks Koepka was leaning toward not playing in the PGA Championship. In fact, he put the odds at 70-30.
Torn ligaments in his right ankle had forced him to withdraw after 13 holes of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. He’d been rehabbing ever since but he wasn’t sure how well his ankle would hold up.
Not only did Koepka play – he managed 36 holes on Sunday and ended up tying for fourth. His ankle was taped and he wore a brace but he finished the grueling week off well.
“It hurts right now,” Koepka acknowledged, adding he had a hard time pushing off on his right side. “I don’t even feel my foot. The outside of it is pretty numb.”
The gutsy performance was huge for Koepka who had dropped from third to ninth in the Ryder Cup standings during his layoff. With points doubled at the PGA, Koepka now stands fifth with the top eight making the team automatically after The Barclays.
Koepka said he spoke with Captain Davis Love III earlier in the week.
“I know we're going to have a little sit down and talk about the ankle, how things are going,” he said. “Hopefully play good this week and next week and make it real official.”
Koepka is currently slated to play in the Travelers Championship this week. He plans to take Monday completely off and then make a decision.
“We'll assess it and figure out how bad it hurts,” Koepka said.
BUSY WEEK FOR STENSON
Two weeks ago, Henrik Stenson seemingly didn’t miss a putt as he fired a 63 to win the Open Championship. On Sunday, though, with a chance to make it two majors in a row at the PGA, he couldn’t buy one and ended up tied for seventh.
Stenson had started his third round on Sunday at 6 under, just three strokes behind Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb. A 67 had moved him within two shots when he teed off again that afternoon but Stenson only made one birdie in his 71 and any lingering hopes were dashed by that double bogey at the 15th hole.
“I never felt like I brought my A game,” Stenson said, adding that he struggled with the speed of the greens which had absorbed several inches of rain on the weekend.
Stenson will regroup quickly, though. He’s flying to Rio de Janeiro on Thursday and will march in the Opening Ceremonies with the Swedish Olympic team the next day. He plans to soak up the entire experience and stay in the Olympic Village.
“It's been an experience of a lifetime, I think as a sports fan,” Stenson said. “The key now is to recharge, have a couple days to try and get some rest and get some energy back and then address that as a normal week. I've got time.”
Branden Grace certainly gave the leaders something to think about when he went out early and birdied four of his first 13 holes to move to 10 under, which put him one shot off the lead.
The South African couldn’t maintain the momentum, though. Grace three-putted the 16th hole for bogey and was unable to birdie either of the consecutive par 5s that close out the back nine, finding the water at No. 18 but salvaging par.
“It was a great major,” Grace said. “A lot of positive to take from it. It was pretty much one of my best ball striking performances from tee to green this year.”
Positives, indeed. After all, Grace was in danger of missing the cut after making triple bogey on the first hole of the second round, then a bogey on No. 3 to go 4 over for the tournament.
But he responded with three straight birdies and six overall to shoot 68 and secure his spot on the weekend. And Grace made another run on Sunday to rattle the leaderboard.
“It was fun,” Grace said. “On Friday, kind of looking like missing the cut at some stage. It shows I'm capable of fighting back and playing some great golf today just to finish the way I did.”
Grace, who closed with a 67, has now finished fifth or better in four of the last seven major championships. He also picked up his first PGA TOUR win earlier this year at the RBC Heritage.
“I feel I'm progressing pretty nicely,” Grace said. “... When I tee it up now, I feel I can win a major. That's what I think if you are coming into a major with that mindset, you know you are going to do well.”
A DREAM COME TRUE
Daniel Summerhays will be playing in the Masters for the first time thanks to his third-place finish at Baltsurol. It was his second top-10 in the last three majors – he has played in just six overall.
Summerhays posted a 66, which was his low round of the week, on Sunday to get to 10 under and make a life-long dream reality. He birdied three of his final four holes, nearly draining a 44-footer for eagle on the last.
“I have got the Augusta theme song memorized,” Summerhays said. “I've got the words and everything. I can hear Jim Nantz' voice in the back of my mind: Hello friends, welcome to Augusta National.
“Masters Sunday, you just sit down on the couch and you soak it all in. … It will be a dream come true.
Summerhays comes from a prominent golfing family. His uncle Bruce played the PGA TOUR Champions and his brother Boyd played the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour before becoming an instructor whose clients include Daniel and Tony Finau.
Not to mention, Summerhays’ cousin, Joe Summerhays, who is the director of instruction at Eagle Lake Golf Course in Roy, Utah, was among the 20 club pros who qualified for the PGA. He missed the cut in his first major championship but stayed around, along with Boyd, to cheer for Daniel.
“A lot of Summerhayses on property this week,” Daniel said. “I had my wife and my two boys out there walking the whole back nine. They brought a lot of birdies with them on the back nine.
“Family is amazing.”
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Jimmy Walker's clutch bunker blast at the PGA is the Shot of the Day
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Love & respect ❤️— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 31, 2016
After the win, Walker gets hugs from:
Jordan Spieth https://t.co/BHNC2YV7Hk