Sometimes having a six-shot lead through 54 holes — or even with seven holes to play — is almost not enough of a cushion to win a PGA Tour event. Just ask Jimmy Walker.
It wasn’t exactly pretty, but Walker got the job done, sinking a five-footer for par on the 18th to clinch the one-shot victory over Dustin Johnson and Jim Renner.
“It’s good TV, isn’t it?” Walker said on the 18th green. It’s drama, man. It’s too much for me.”
Well, it was certainly nerve-wracking to watch him play that 72nd hole.
After birdieing the 11th, Walker looked like he had firm control of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but he decided to make things interesting with a sloppy finish that included three bogeys on his way to a final-round two-over 74, 11-under total.
With his lead cut to just one heading into the 18th, Walker pushed a 4-iron and then found his way to the green in three with a 30-footer for birdie, which he ran past the hole by five-feet. Needing to make the knee-wobbling tester to avoid a playoff with Johnson and Renner, Walker went back to the fundamentals and drained the putt for par. Whew.
“I hate three-putting,” Walker said. “I had two of them back there, and definitely didn’t want another one on the last.”
Walker captured his third victory in eight starts in the new 2013-14 wraparound season, but it was his first time winning as a frontrunner. He came from three shots back in the first win of his career in October at the season-opening Frys.com Open, also in Northern California. Walker, who lives in San Antonio, was previously winless in his first 187 starts in seven years on the PGA Tour. Next, he overcame a two-shot deficit in the final round at Waialae Country Club to clinch the Sony Open, closing with a round of 63.
His win at Pebble Beach also puts him in elite company. Prior to Sunday, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval were the only players to have won three times in their first eight starts. Now, Walker has added his name to that short list.
If you’d guessed Jimmy Walker would have three wins already this season, then you should head to Vegas and place some crazy prop bets. Walker is also leading by over a million dollars in the American Ryder Cup standings, which are based on PGA Tour earnings (and the four majors count double).
Meanwhile, although Renner came up short of getting into a playoff, he had a huge week with his share of runner-up honors, not to mention as a consolation he won the pro-am portion of the tournament with his partner, John Harkey Jr., the CEO of Consolidated Restaurant Operations, Inc.
Previously, the Web.com Tour graduate, who earned his 2011 PGA Tour card via Q-school, had a lousy showing in the Finals events that determined one’s priority ranking — which is the order the players in that category get into tournaments.
Renner was making only his fifth start of the season and he had previously missed the cut in the first four starts. With the first “re-shuffle” coming up, his T2 finish will move him up the list and help him get into more events going forward.
“It was pretty big,” Renner said, via the AP. “I just knew I needed a good week. My back was up against the wall, and that’s something I’m familiar with and I don’t mind it. But I’m happy that I freed myself up a little bit for the rest of the year.”
*Jordan Spieth had a backdoor top-five finish, firing a final-round, bogey-free 67. Spieth had to return on Sunday morning to finish his third round and ended it with his sixth three-putt to shoot a 78. He faced Pebble Beach in the fiercest of conditions on Saturday.
“Yesterday was a day where you want to play Pebble Beach in that weather once in your life,” Spieth said, via the AP. “You just don’t want it be Saturday when you’re in the lead.”
At least the kid’s got a sense of humor!
*Graeme McDowell, who won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble, had another solid showing at the venue, placing T7. Although they didn’t make the cut, it was particularly special because McDowell got to play alongside his father for the first three rounds.
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)