Jimmy Walker hit some wayward tee shots on Thursday, but when the putter gets hot, there’s some room for error. Walker didn’t roll in every look at birdie, but he felt like he made everything. He shot a bogey-free round, making nine birdies, to cruise to a 63 and the two-shot lead at the Shell Houston Open. Walker’s 63 tied the course record set by Adam Scott and Johnson Wagner during the first round in 2008. Wagner went on to win that year (and punched a last-minute ticket to The Masters). “I felt like I was just trying to keep it on the green, and, you know, just try to make it as smooth as I could throughout the day,” said Walker. “And I hit a couple of wayward tee shots here and there and got myself back into position, but I putted really good. I’ve been putting really well this year. When you putt good, it cures a lot of ills for sure.”
Walker needed only 23 putts, but he hit only 5 of 14 fairways, ranking him 136th in the field of 142 players.
He changed putters at the beginning of the year to a new Scotty Cameron putter and it’s been working well for him, except he feels like he’s struggled on the greens in the last few events, which obviously wasn’t the case on Thursday.
“I’m not going to say like, ‘Oh, every time I hit the greens, this one is going in,'” said Walker. “I just kept stroking it, and it felt like that’s how I’ve been stroking it — I haven’t putted really well the last couple tournaments. I felt like I kind of got back to feeling that stroke that I was using earlier in the year when I was putting so good and playing so good.”
Walker isn’t in The Masters yet. The final spot in the field goes to the winner of this week’s Houston Open (if not previously qualified). And, naturally, that’s on his mind.
“Anybody that’s not playing at Augusta next week knows that this is your last chance to punch your ticket,” said Walker. “Yeah, it would be great to win and get to go play.”
Meanwhile, Walker’s wife, Erin, has a competition of her own happening this week. She’s on the other side of town in Katy, Texas, competing in a horse show.
“She’s out having fun doing her thing this week and it always kind of falls this week where she’s got a show and we’re playing the Shell, and so it’s always a fun week for both of us,” said Jimmy. “We’re always kind of busy.”
No word yet on how Erin’s show went, but knowing the random superstitions that all competitors have, I’d stay away for at least another day.
Nick O’Hern and Josh Teater shot matching 65s and are tied for second through one round. Steve Stricker, who has been practicing his putting from his basement in Wisconsin, shot a five-under 67. World No. 2 Lee Westwood is probably right where he wants to be — he shot four-under 68, T9. Padraig Harrington, who has been showing signs that he’s moving back to major form, also posted a 68.
(AP Photo/Bob Levey)