Cleat Geeks

The 19th Hole: PGA Championship

Even as the storms raged around Jimmy Walker, some literal, others from the pressure of the world’s top golfers trying to win one of their sport’s biggest prizes, the veteran PGA Tour player never flinched.JimmyWalkerChamp

And in a season that’s seen him go through some rough times, things took a good turn at just the right time, as Walker held on for his first major championship in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol.

It went right down to the final green on a Sunday that saw Walker have to grind out 36 holes of play due to stormy conditions Saturday.

Needing a par on the final hole, Walker two-putted from about 30 feet, the last one a testy three-footer he poured right in the middle of the cup, giving him a one-shot victory from defending champion Jason Day.

“I wouldn’t have called this, but it’s huge,” Walker said. “It’s nice to get in the position and keep the hammer down and keep making birdies and keep playing well.”

Walker, age 37, has played the PGA Tour since 2006 but didn’t get his first of five wins until 2014, making him something of a late bloomer.

His 2016, however, has been anything but smooth by his recent lofty standards. He’d recorded four top 10 finishes early in the year but none since the first week of March.

That makes how Sunday turned out just that much more sweet. After grinding out nine straight par to start his final round, Walker came up with a holeout from a greenside bunker for birdie at 10, then another birdie at 11 as Day turned the heat up on him. Another birdie at 17, followed by the closing par, finally finished the deal.

“Just to be in it and be there and have a chance and then to finish it off is just so gratifying,” Walker said.
Day, seeking his second straight PGA title, did all he could on the weekend, spending most of it at or near the top of the leaderboard and posting a dramatic eagle on his final hole of the week to add some more pressure to Walker.

“It was nice to get the eagle, just to try and make Jimmy think about it,” Day said. “But obviously, Jimmy just played too good all day.”

Daniel Summerhays closed with a strong 66 to capture third and his best career finish in a major. It’s been a solid summer for Summerhays, whose other big highlight was a tie for 8th at the U.S. Open.

Henrik Stenson, two weeks removed from winning The Open Championship, was in the hunt before a double bogey on the 15h hole in Sunday’s final round dropped him back to a tie for 7th.

PGA picks

We were pretty poor. That’s all that has to be said.

Justin Rose – A decent weekend salvaged a better finish, but he was never a factor to win . 4-under, tied for 22nd.

Jhonattan Vegas – Kind of the opposite, good early but not as good on the weekend, leading to the same finish. 4-under, tied for 22nd.

Bubba Watson – Ho hum. 1-over, tied for 60th.

Sergio Garcia – 4-over, missed the cut.

This week

The PGA Tour stays in the Northeast for the Travelers Championship, played outside of Hartford, Conn. Last year’s event was won by Bubba Watson, his second time to capture the title.

Travelers picksPatrickReed

Patrick Reed – After making a nice run at the PGA Championship, one-fourth of America’s Olympic contingent looks to gain some momentum going into the Games.

Paul Casey – The Englishman nearly won this event a year ago and will play well again this time. Good memories on a course matter.

Jon Rahm – The rookie from Arizona State came close in Canada. Every putt he hits looks like it ought to go in, and if enough start dropping he will be a champion somewhere. Maybe here.

Longshot – Bryson DeChambeau – Another rookie, this one with a well-debated and unique golf swing, has had mixed results in his first few months as a professional. It’s time for a landmark performance.

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