Liguori: Walker Kept His Cool As PGA Championship Pressure Increased
By Ann Liguori
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SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (WFAN) -- What a win for Jimmy Walker.
The 37-year-old from Texas captured his first major championship on Sunday, taking the 98th PGA Championship by one stroke. He was a model of consistency and composure as he navigated rain-soaked Baltusrol and held off Jason Day, the top-ranked player in the world and defending champ.
Walker didn't let the inclement weather hinder him as he had one of those days to remember on Sunday. Forced to play the final two rounds due to earlier suspensions, he carded a 2-under-par 68 in the third round, before shooting 67 over the final 18 holes.
After recording pars on the first nine holes of the final round, Walker holed a shot from the green-side bunker on the 10th for birdie and then drained a birdie putt on the 11th. Walker's birdie on the 17th increased his lead over Day to three shots. When Day responded with an eagle putt on the 18th to close within one, Walker stayed calm and got up and down from thick rough for par on the final hole to close out his career-defining win.
Walker was poised and in control during the fourth round, hitting 16 of 18 greens. He led or had a share of the lead in every round and dealt with that pressure like he had been there before. One of his most impressive shots was the cut shot he hit to the green in regulation from a tricky spot near a row of trees on the No. 3. He made par there like it was no problem.
I remember being impressed with Walker during his Ryder Cup debut in Gleneagles, Scotland in 2014. He finished with a win, three halves and a loss and earned 2 1/2 points for the American team. He was a model of poise under the intense pressure of an event that means a lot to so many golfers and fans.
When I asked him if that international stage helped him deal with the pressure he faced during the final round at Baltusrol, Walker replied, "Thank you, and I do think it helped. I felt like I learned a lot at the Ryder Cup two years ago. I learned that I am not into every golf shot I hit week-in and week-out on Tour. 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 know we didn't win. It's not fun not winning, but I felt like I played well."
Winning the PGA Championship all but guarantees Walker's spot on the American squad for September's Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Walker said he didn't think he had a chance before his huge win in New Jersey.
"I saw Davis (Love, captain of the USA Ryder Cup team) this week and told him, 'Man, I'd love to be on your team.' Haven't played that well this year, but I feel like there's still time for me to play good at the end of the year to have a chance to get on the team or get the nod to get picked," Walker said.
Now, he doesn't have to worry. He'll make the team and with the confidence that comes with winning a major title, his calm demeanor and smart play should lead to more success.
This year's majors featured four first-time winners. Walker joins Masters champ Danny Willet, U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson and British Open champion Henrik Stenson.
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