Jimmy Walker’s calm demeanor on Sunday didn’t exactly indicate that he was on the verge of capturing his first PGA Golf major title. As he played his 3rd and 4th rounds at the Baltusrol Golf Club, he appeared composed and confident. His final round was virtually flawless. He carded a bogey-free 3-under 67, including a 33 on the back nine to win.
That is not to say there wasn’t drama on Sunday. At one point in Walker’s final round, he had World #1 Jason Day and Open Champion Henrik Stenson within one shot of his lead. A host of other players threatened Walker, but he was able to make it through most of the final round in control of the lead. He appeared to have won after he sunk a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, which increased his lead to three shots. However, in the group ahead of him, Jason Day was still fighting to force a playoff. On the final hole, Day hit a 2-iron onto the green that set up an eagle putt that would bring him to within one shot of the lead. He confidently sunk the putt and entered the clubhouse at 13-under. Right after that putt, Walker hit his 2nd shot on 18 to the right of the green in the deep rough. Remarkably, he was then able to loft a shot onto the green and two-putt from there to win the Wanamaker Cup.
Only eight times in PGA Championship history has the winner been ahead after the completion of each round. Walker is the most recent player to accomplish this feat, which was last done by Phil Mickelson, ironically, at Baltusrol in 2005. A wire-to-wire win is a true testament to a golfer’s dominance at a tournament. Not only do they have to play all four rounds impeccably, but they also have to deal with the added pressure of knowing everyone in the field is chasing them. Walker coolly handled this stress for upwards of 72 hours.
Perhaps the best storyline associated with Jimmy Walker’s win concerns his caddy, Andy Sanders. He first met Walker as they played in an amateur event together at Baltusrol in 2000. A couple of years later, Sanders was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had to quit the game at the peak of his career. Although he walked away from a promising future in golf, he still found a way to be close to the action. In 2008, when Walker made it onto the PGA Tour, he asked Sanders to caddy for him. Eight years later, at the place they first met, the duo achieved a goal they have been reaching for their entire lives. It was a bittersweet moment for Sanders.
Besides Jason Day, most superstars had poor showings. Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy both missed the cut. Johnson was especially out of form, finishing nine over after two days of play. Although Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson all made it to the weekend, they didn’t even place in the top ten. Henrik Stenson, who seemed invincible just two weeks ago at the Open Championship, faltered on the 15th hole with an ugly double bogey and immediately dropped out of contention.
Overall, the 2016 major season was captivating. From Spieth’s collapse and Dustin’s breakthrough to Stenson and Mickelson’s extraordinary battle and Walker’s commanding victory, all four tournaments were incredible competitions. They reinvigorated the sport with the excitement and thrill that the game had been lacking. Golf fans can only fantasize that 2017 will be just as memorable.