Jimmy Walker has claimed his first major title by winning the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey. He edged out defending champion Jason Day by just one shot in a tight finish.
Last year’s winner at Whistling Straights wasn’t about to hand over the Wanamaker Trophy on a silver platter. The world No.1 Aussie made a clutch 15-foot eagle at the last hole to ignite the crowd and pile the pressure on the veteran American. But the moment of truth was one to savour as Walker held his nerve to two-putt for par and hold Day at bay.
“Sometimes things don’t come easy and golf isn’t an easy game. Day is a great champion and I wouldn’t expect anything else – eagle at the last”, Walker said after his win.
The 37-year-old from Oklahoma continues a run of five consecutive first-time major winners. In fact, it is the first season since 2011 that all four of the year’s majors have been claimed by first-time winners.
2011 — Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Keegan Bradley.
2016 — Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Jimmy Walker.
Walker admitted to feeling nerves on the back nine.
“I had to make par, pars are hard but I made it. There’s a lot of emotion going on out there, I’m not gonna lie. It’s tough, it’s amazing.”
On 17, Day regrettably missed a birdie that would have reduced the margin to one stroke. Then on 18, Day made a superb approach shot to create the eagle chance which gave him hope of a playoff.
On his walk to the 18th green, Day threw his club in frustration reacting to the roar behind him, acknowledging Walker, in the pair behind him, had just made birdie on 17.
That birdie putt looked like missing but the golf gods were on Walker’s side today and he finished with a simple three-foot putt on 18 to finish with a bogey-free round of 67. Earlier in the day, Walker made a 68 in his third round.
It was an exhausting day as all of the leaders had to play 36 holes of golf to catch up with the schedule after rain and lightning ended Saturday’s third round prematurely.
“It feels sweet, it’s amazing. I felt like something clicked last week and I brought it in this week. It’s surreal, it really is. I’m having a hard time putting words to it now”, Walker told Sky Sports.
Walker climbs from No.29 to No.4 in the Ryder Cup standings, basically guaranteeing him a spot on the 12-man USA team for the showdown against Europe, which is two months away. But he did miss out on qualifying for the Rio Olympics.
Of the other big names, recent British Open champion Henrik Stenson finished six shots back, Jordan Spieth was eight shots off the winning score and Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy both missed the cut altogether. However, Johnson still leads the lucrative FedEx Cup standings.
Final leaderboard at Baltusrol:
-14 J Walker (US)
-13 J Day (Aus)
-10 D Summerhays (US)
-9 B Grace (SA), H Matsuyama (Jpn), B Koepka (US)