Monday 26 September 2016

Walker fends off champion Day to grab his first Major

Published 01/08/2016 | 02:30

Jimmy Walker lifts the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the US PGA Championship (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Jimmy Walker lifts the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the US PGA Championship (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

The 98th US PGA Championship was played in fits and starts over the weekend due to the threat of lightning in the air, but when it counted, the sparks flew on the back nine as Jimmy Walker holed a three-foot putt on the last to become the fourth first-time Major champion of the season.

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Walker, 37, defied the best efforts of title holder Jason Day and Open champion Henrik Stenson as a tortuous, weather-assaulted championship at last coughed up the dramatic finish the galleries had anticipated.

Walker led from wire-to-wire and got the job done on a long day in which he, Day and Stenson had to play 36 holes, finishing round three in the morning and coming back for more in the afternoon.

But it was worth it to the man from Oklahoma City who defied all the odds to carve his own special place in golfing history.

Walker's record in the PGA since 2010 gave no cause for optimism before Thursday.

Three missed cuts, a tied-21st and a previous best tied-7th finish in 2014 did not meet the profile of a Major champion.

So much for the betting market. Walker did the best job of any of the 156 starters.

Rounds of 65, 66, 68 placed him on 11-under par after 54 holes, one ahead of Jason Day.

Steady

For nine holes of the final round he kept his rhythm and reeled off par after par.

Then, he struck, first on 10 when he splashed out of a greenside bunker for a birdie three. His day got even better when he followed that by slotting a 30-foot birdie putt at the 11th to move to 13-under.

Ahead of him Day, who had turned in level-par 34, had also birdied 11, to reach 11-under.

Brave Stenson, seeking a second successive Major in a fortnight, saw his bid collapse with a double-bogey six on the 15th, dropping him to eight-under and out of the race.

Meanwhile, Walker hoicked his tee shot on the 15th into rough, but saved his par.

A par three on the 215-yard 16th kept Walker still two clear of Day, who was gutted to miss a birdie chance at the long 17th.

Everything hinged on the last two par-fives. Day took a par on 17, and a huge roar went up when he gave himself an eagle chance from ten feet at the 18th.

Behind him, an even bigger roar. Walker birdied 17 to reach minus-14, but Day eagled for 67 and the clubhouse lead at 13-under. Walker needed par for 67 at the last and got it, despite playing his second shot into rough right of the green.

Irish Independent

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