Jimmy Walker birdied four of his final six holes to post 17-under par 263 to win the Sony Open by one shot over Chris Kirk at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu on Sunday. Jerry Kelly rounded out the podium one further shot behind. Walker began Sunday two shots behind Kirk but Texan stayed patient and took his chances to win for the second time in 2013-14.
“Dynomite” was just that on Sunday evening in Hawaii as he broke through a traffic jam atop the leaderboard by racing home in 30 to post the clubhouse lead. Chris Kirk, the 54-hole leader, had a chance to tie Walker with an eagle chip on No. 18 but his attempt had too much sizzle and his birdie was good enough for solo second. Walker’s final round of 63 tied Sang-Moon Bae (Thursday) for the low round of the week and his 25 birdies were the best in the field. His final round was bogey-free, just one of two on the day. His victory was thorough as he led the field in driving distance, T22 in driving accuracy, T7 in greens in regulation (GIR) and was ninth in strokes gained-putting. That’s a complete examination passed with flying colors. After not winning in his first 186 events, he’s won twice in his last six!
Walker began working with Butch Harmon just over a year ago and the results just keep getting better and better. I suggested to gamers after he won at Frys.com that his belief should be through the roof and there should be no hesitation to adding him to your rosters. Now, after his second win you must pay attention. It’s only six events for him in 2013-14 but he’s currently sits second in strokes gained-putting, second in birdie average and first in birdie or better conversion percentage. He also is leading the FedExCup Season Points. Winning once is quite difficult but showed his confidence coming down the stretch today to just not hang on but instead putting the pressure on by attacking pins and making birdies. There seems to be a surprise player every Ryder Cup year and currently Walker has the position all to himself. He’s earned every point.
Gamers, Walker has now played this event eight times and his two best finishes are this victory and fourth in 2011. His final round here last year was 64 so it’s clear that he enjoys Waialae. Last week Walker stumbled but I suggested that shouldn’t have been a big deal because first-timers USUALLY do not do well at Kapalua and gamers shouldn’t be discouraged. For the people who had Walker in their lineups this week shouldn’t be discouraged either! Congratulations to Jimmy Walker as he becomes the first player to have multiple victories in 2013-14.
With this victory, Walker collects $1,008,000, 500 FedExCup points and he’s the player everyone is chasing as the new year, 2014, gets started.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first eight events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (2), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk and Zach Johnson are the trophy holders.
Jimmy Walker is the only first-time winner in 2013-14. There were 12 of them last season. Walker is the only two-time winner as well.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. This season only half of the 54-hole leaders have held on to win as Chris Kirk failed to convert his lead. He was two-for-two heading into Sunday.
Russell Henley made the cut but did not join history by defending his championship.
Jimmy Walker reverted to the trends that have made this event famous. He’s in his 30s; he’s played here plenty and he’s the 10th of the last 16 to play the week before at Kapalua. Russell Henley was the exact opposite of ALL of that last year!
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
This is the part of the column where I list the winners and their age. Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua. Now Walker adds title No. 2 to catch the youngsters. Harris English, (24) joins Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), and Dustin Johnson (29) as the twenty-somethings on the board as the Young Guns now have four of eight wins to start the season. The Old Guys were led this week by Cheese Head Jerry Kelly, 47, and his solo third.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Chris Kirk: Even though his chip didn’t fall to force extra holes, Kirk did everything but putt this week and still only lost by a shot. The 2013 McGladrey champ was looking for his second win of the year but his putter was quiet again, similar to last week at Kapalua. Yet, his ball-striking was excellent at HTOC and that carried over to this week as well as he was T16 in fairways and T2 in GIR. Sadly for Kirk, he didn’t make a putt over 10 feet after the first round. He’s currently 24th in strokes gained-putting so was his putter returns, look out! With four more rounds in the 60s this week, that makes 14 of 16 in his career at Waialae. He backed his T5 in 2013 with solo second this year. Mark him down for 2015!
Jerry Kelly: The old man and the sea seemed to get along, again, as the 2002 champ made the cut for the 14th time in 17 tries as he chalked up solo third. He’s now hit the top 10 in seven of those 14 times he’s seen the weekend. #horseforcourse personified and more proof hitting it a mile isn’t necessary on all courses.
Harris English: The Mayakoba champ from this season was also looking for his second win of the season but the big hitter from Georgia ran out of gas coming home as he played the final four holes one-over par. He didn’t hit many fairways (T57) or greens (T48) but when he did, he took advantage with the flat stick (T3 putts per GIR) to rack up 23 birdies (T2). English also played last week at Kapalua and was T11 so that result plus his solo fourth this week made for a nice Hawaiian swing. Folks, he’s only 24 but I wouldn’t even think twice about hopping on this train.
Marc Leishman: His fifth tournament at Waialae turned out to be his best as the Aussie birdied eight of his last 12 holes to post 65 Sunday and solo fifth. He adds this to finishes of T9, T27, T20 and T12 so it’s safe to say he likes it here! Leishman also fired 64 on Friday but a balky 71 Saturday kept him at arms-length heading into Sunday. He was second in strokes gained-putting.
Brian Stuard: After closing 65-65 last year to finish T5, he opened 65-65 to hold the 36-hole lead on his way to solo sixth. It’s bizarre that the first seven places this week involved seven different golfers. Now, it’s back to our regularly scheduled recap. After solo second his last time out at Mayakoba, it’s safe to say he’s on fiyah. Mayjah fiyah. The next step for the 31-year-old is learning how to play with that lead as his 71 on Saturday knocked him three shots off the lead entering Sunday. He showed a fantastic fight-back by heading out in 32 but his level par coming home couldn’t get him over the hump. He was T6 last year at Greenbrier so he really likes Seth Raynor golf courses!
Jeff Overton: In six events in the new season, Overton has five top 25s and his solo seventh this week makes his second top 10 (T9, Shriners) already. He MC in the other event. The newlywed also is a big fan of Waialae as he finished eight here last year and 14 of his last 16 rounds here are in the 60s. Overton has won a ton of cash but the 2010 Ryder Cupper is still looking for his first win on TOUR. He was in the thick of it, again, on Sunday before three bogeys in his final seven holes kept him off the podium. He’s grinding in the right direction, gamers.
Charles Howell III: With his T8 finish this week it’s now eight top 10s in 13 tournaments at Waialae. This is his fourth top 10 in his last five consecutive starts. If this doesn’t convince you, nothing else will. My one-and-done hit the top 10 with a 66-66 finish. Sometimes overthinking it is just that; overthinking.
Adam Scott: I had the first pick in my weekly draft and I went with Matt Kuchar. My other choices were Zach Johnson or Adam Scott. They all finished on 10-under and T8. Weird. Scott couldn’t make anything on the greens as he finished 65th in strokes gained-putting and only made 16 birdies on the week. Imagine if he made ANYTHING on the greens!
Matt Kuchar: His eagle on his final hole pushed him from T29 to T8 so, as usual, Kuchar finds a way to cash a nice check. His last three finishes at Waialae are T8, T5 and T5. #automaticdawg
Kevin Na: His T8 sees him hit the top 10 for the second time in five events in this new season and that’s a good sign for him and gamers. Na had battled back problems and didn’t play after the Masters in 2013 before his T3 at Frys.com in October. I get nervy around back problems but he’s calmed most of my fears with this start. This was Na’s third top 10 in his last seven starts at Waialae but his first since 2009 (T5).
Matt Every: After missing the cut last year after T6 in 2012, Every is back in the top 10 with T8 this week. Every is continuing his all-or-nothingness again in 2013-14 as he now has two top 10s in four events. Every time I’m ready to get on board, it blows up in my face so I’m cautious with him moving forward. A great week on the greens saw him roll in 22 birdies and those will also come in handy next week in the Coachella Valley.
Hudson Swafford: Another year, another former Georgia Bulldog making noise in Honolulu as Swafford closed with 67 to post his first-ever top 10 (T8) as a professional in just his fifth event. His best previous finish was T30 in Las Vegas. He was cut in the other three events. He secured his TOUR card by finishing No. 21 on the Web.com money list last season. His second round 64 is also his career best. If he’s like the rest of these young Bulldogs, he should be on your radar but expectations should be tempered as this is his first time around the block on the big boy TOUR.
Ryan Palmer: The 2010 champ returns to the top 10 for the second time in nine starts at Waialae with his T8 finish. He was five-under alone on No. 18 for the week as he eagled it each day of the weekend and made a birdie on his opening round. Usually a putter, it was the iron game that kept Palmer in the top 10 this week as he was T4 GIR. He only made six bogeys (and a double) on the week.
Zach Johnson: There was no possible way to leave him out after last week. Only Ernie Els has won at Kapalua and Waialae in back-to-back weeks (2002-03). Only two rounds of his last 20 are higher than 70. #cha-ching
Hideto Tanihara: He led the Japan Tour in putting and that part of his game traveled this week as he led the field in strokes gained-putting and was third in putts per GIR. He was sixth on the Japan Tour in money in 2013 and this was his best finish by a mile in six starts at the Sony.
Retief Goosen: Another player with back and neck issues back into the top 10! After making one bogey through 54 holes, the South African was four OVER through five holes on Sunday so there still is some rust that needs to be shaken. He did make six birdies against one bogey in the final 13 holes to finish T8. His last event of 2013 was THE PLAYERS and his last top 10 was the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. In his first three starts of 2013-14, he had only three of 10 rounds in the 60s so if you saw this coming this week, good for you. He now has three top 10s in five trips to the Sony Open but this was his first appearance since 2010.
Pat Perez: Another veteran who came good this week, Perez followed his T9 last year with T8 in 2014. Perez is rounding into form as he only made three bogeys (one double) on the week and his T8 follows his T16 at Mayakoba his last time out. He’s hit the top 20 in seven of 13 starts at the Sony so he’s #horseforcourse material as well!
Will Wilcox: I know two things about him: He uses a yellow ball and he shot 59 last year on the Web.com Tour. He was in the final group after sitting one shot behind Kirk entering the day but he was the only player in the top 50 to fire an over-par round (71) on Sunday. The experience will help him tremendously but one birdie on Sunday was his downfall. His T8 should get him into the Humana this week and we’ll see what he can do in back-to-back weeks. He was seventh in earnings on the Web.com Tour last year to earn his TOUR playing privileges. He was first in total driving and second in the all-around ranking as well. I’ll put him on my radar.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Matt Kuchar: T8, see above.
Adam Scott: T8, see above.
Charles Howell III: T8, see above.
Jordan Spieth: Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! He’s human! He couldn’t get it going after nearly winning last week at HTOC. This does nothing to change my outlook on him.
Zach Johnson: T8, see above.
Chris Kirk: Second
Tim Clark: Clark WD with elbow problems on Friday afternoon. He ruined a few fantasy teams this week but let’s hope the South African is OK.
Jason Dufner: He made 21 birdies and finished eight-under, T29. His putter was decent, even though he missed a few shawties, but it was the tee ball and approaches that let him down this week. Again, he’s two shots out of T8 and didn’t play well. He’ll be fine moving forward.
Harris English: Fourth.
Jimmy Walker: Winner.
Hideki Matsuyama: He also WD but before play started which helped gamers. He cited a wrist issue that we’ll keep monitoring at Rotoworld.com.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat WEDNESDAY at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Humana Challenge and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.
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