Sometimes a par is the toughest score in golf. Just ask Jimmy Walker.
As the American birdied the 71st hole at Baltusrol Golf Club on Sunday night, he thought he had done enough to close out his first major championship victory. Yet the PGA Championship and that massive Wanamaker Trophy were not his just yet.
Jason Day, in the group ahead, had other ideas. The world number one and holder eagled the par-five last to cut Walker’s lead to a single stroke, leaving the challenger needing a par to become a major winner for the first time.
There are pars and then there are pars and this one had to be achieved under extreme pressure by a golfer who had not been in that situation before.
“When I saw that he parred 17, I knew if we birdied 17, after I hit the second shot, I said, let’s birdie there and close it out. And Andy (Sanders, his caddie) said, ‘let’s do it’, and made the birdie,” Walker said. “Then he makes the eagle and forces me to make the par. That’s brutal sometimes, when you know all you have to do is make a par. And I haven’t made a bogey all day; you come to the last hole, and just didn’t want that to happen.”
It almost did, Walker’s second shot sprayed right of the elevated green, missing the bunkers and nestling in rough below the hole. It was then he took the conservative route, chipping out and up to the middle of the green, leaving himself a 33-foot two-putt for victory. The first putt took care of the first 30 feet and Walker, 37, held his nerve to complete the win.
“I said just send it up there as far as we can. I’m a great bunker player and good pitcher of the ball. The ball just came out a little more right than I wanted to and made it a little more exciting. You figure 19 out of 20 times, I’ll make a five going for the green there. I played the pitch shot real safe. Didn’t have the best lie. And I knew I was going to have to make a tough two-putt and I did.
“Incredible finish, it really was. Just puts a smile on my face. It’s not even really sunk in yet. It’s been a whirlwind. Just haven’t really got to chill yet, but it’s awesome.
“Getting into position, I feel like I can do it. I can do it now. I can win a major championship. It’s unreal, it really is. I haven’t been playing as well as I would have liked to this year, but I felt like some things started clicking last week. It sure showed this week. There was nothing easy about the day, really about the week, for that matter, especially coming down the last hole.”
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