Jimmy Walker began Sunday three shots behind up-and-comer Brooks Koepka but his closing round 66 saw him hold off “old man” Vijay Singh by two shots and Koepka and a gang of four another shot back in a tie for third. Jimmy Walker won for the first time in his career and he did in style be firing 62-66 on the weekend to win the Frys.com. For the week he posted 17-under-par, 267 to tie the tournament record. He also tied the course record with his 62 on Saturday afternoon. Walker led the field in birdies (T1) and strokes gained-putting. This is the fourth year in a row that winner has finished in the top two in strokes gained-putting. Walker finished the 2013 season 46th in strokes gained-putting so he qualifies for me as a solid putter.
What a solid year it has been for Walker. He started working with Butch Harmon around this time last year and the dividends have paid off. He has his best finish on the money list (30th), his best finish in a tournament (T2; Greenbrier) and racked up a career-best 10 top 10s in 2013. He finished 22nd on the all-around ranking. Now, in 2013-14 his belief should be through the roof. I wouldn’t hesitate adding him to any season-long games because his finishes on the money list have done nothing but trend in the right direction for the last five years and starting with a WIN this season is going to deter him. Also, this victory will get him in the Masters, THE PLAYERS and the PGA Championship. If he continues to play solidly, he should be in the WGC events as well.
Moving forward, the only time I would hesitate with Walker is on tight courses as he can spray it off the tee but that’s about it. He’s long, hits plenty of GIR, makes tons of birdies and kills par fours. The biggest question coming into 2013-14 was “when is he going to finally win?” Next question!
With this victory, Walker collects $900,000 and 500 FedExCup points and is exempt through 2016. DYNOMITE!
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA picks right back up where it left off for 2013-14 with Jimmy Walker’s victory.
There were 12, first-time winners in the 2013 season and just six players with multiple victories (Woods, Mickelson, Kuchar, Snedeker, Scott and Stenson). Walker will give the non-winners belief that they can follow in his footsteps as he broke his maiden this weekend.
Only 17 of the 38 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. That ugly trend continues in the first event of 2013-2014 as young Brooks Koepka couldn’t make his two-shot lead hold up.
For the third season in a row the Frys.com has seen a first-time winner at CordeValle. You can take that number and throw it in the trash as this tournament heads to Silverado in Napa Valley next season as CordeValle prepares for the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open. Jimmy Walker will not be happy about this development as he won this year and was T4 last year. He also shot 62 this year and last year. I would say he likes this course.
This is the part of the column where I list the winners and their age. Jimmy Walker is 34 and scores one for the guys in their prime. I break this column down into three categories, the youth (29 and under), the prime-timers (30-39) and the old folks (40 and over). Youth was served this week as Hideki Matsuyama (21) finished T3 and the old folks had 50-year old Vijay Singh racking up solo second.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Vijay Singh: Here’s a great example of why and how course trends do and don’t work. Singh can’t putt but his ball-striking is so solid, even at 50, he contended this week. He finished 34th in strokes gained and was 30th in total putting. Oh, but he was first in GIR. Just how good was he playing? He made only four bogeys (and a double) this week. Singh is going to continue to play on the TOUR as long as his game continues to be sharp. I would endorse him in lighter, off-week fields as he’s won 34 times and has no problem striping it.
Kevin Na: The good news for Na is his T3 will put him closer to the $484,619 he needs to earn to keep his card on his Major Medical Exemption (MME). After playing the Masters earlier this year he fell off the radar to rest the bulging discs in his back. He returned to TOUR action this week and did what he does best: putt. He was second in the field in strokes gained and putts per GIR. The most impressive part was his 67-64-64 finish after his opening round 75. His only win on TOUR was the 2011 Justin Timberlake Shriners event in Las Vegas. That’s where the TOUR heads next week! Pay attention people!
Scott Brown: In 21 events last season, Brown won once and had exactly two other top 25s. His win was in his second event of those 21. This year, he opens with T2 and has shown me that he’s king off the “off-week” tournament as his victory came last year at Puerto Rico. He also posted 20-under to win so that tells me he can also make birdies. He made 22 of them this week against only four bogeys (T1) but it was a couple of doubles that ended up holding him back. He closed with 64 and you’ll need a guy who can make a bunch of birdies next week in Las Vegas.
Hideki Matsuyama: He’s never finished worse than T21 in any TOUR event. This week he was T3. If he’s in the field, he’s going to be in the chalk section. Hard courses, easy courses, medium courses, putt-putt courses, I’m on board.
Brooks Koepka: The well-traveled 23-year old was the toast of the Valley for 62 holes this week. I told you his story in the preview column and it wasn’t a surprise to me that he was contending this week based on his 2013 performances. He tried to “Jordan Spieth-it” this week with a sponsor’s exemption and was damn close. He lost a few putts late and hit some crooked shots but there’s no doubt, for me that Koepka can play himself onto TOUR. According to Rob Bolton on Twitter, he’ll need just over $420,000 to achieve Special Temporary Membership which will allow him unlimited starts, unlimited exemptions and a spot in the beyond 150 Reshuffle. He’s eligible next week with his T3 at CordeValle so I would expect another solid performance in Las Vegas, if selected.
Brian Harman: Plenty of former Georgia Bulldogs have been making noise over the last few years and Harman is looking to join that pack. The lefty logged 29 events last season and 30 in 2012 so he’s not afraid to get stuck in. He’s now hit the top 10 in two of his last four starts (T3, Wyndham) so it might be time to jump on. But remember he only has three top 10s in his career in 63 starts. The strength of his game is putting so file that as well for down the road.
George McNeill: McNeill couldn’t do what Walker did and that was back up a Saturday 62 with another low round on Sunday. He began the day just two back but never got on track and his final round 71 was his worst of the week. His 70 and 68 don’t exactly scream “watch out” moving forward so keep that in mind if you are eager to back him next week. This was his second top 10 in two years. The other was his win in 2012.
Billy Hurley III: When we last were in touch with the Navy man, he was T4 at the AT&T and two weeks later T8 at John Deere. That was 2012, his rookie season where he only made eight of 27 weekends. His T8 at the Web.com Tour Championship gave him enough cash to take another swing with the big boys on the TOUR. Normally an excellent putter, he made NOTHING this week but was striping fairways and greens. He also had two, bogey-free rounds this week. I’ll take a look at him when putting contests are going to break out but will tread cautiously otherwise.
Will MacKenzie: He hasn’t had a full season on TOUR since 2010 when he logged 23 events but only finished 154th on the FedExCup list. He proves another theory of fantasy gaming: play the hot hand. In his last three events in the Web.com finals, he was P2, T22 and T22 in the final event so he was hitting it well. Also remember, his last top 10 on TOUR was here in 2010 and he was T15 in 2011. #horseforcourse
Max Homa: The 2013 NCAA Men’s Individual Golf Champion and Pac 12 champion put his sponsor’s exemption to good use as well this week as he racked up his first top 10 (T9) in his first TOUR event. Like Koepka, Homa is status-less and is looking to “Jordan Spieht-it” as well. He played on the winning Walker Cup team this summer so he’s got the pedigree to make some noise out here. This finish makes him eligible to be in the field next week in Las Vegas as well.
Catching up on those who looked oh-so-good on Tuesday afternoon…
Billy Horschel: After a T7 at TTC, his last event, and a T7 here in 2011, Horschel dug himself too deep a hole on Thursday with 74 that his 69 on Friday fell one shot short. The good news is he crammed in eight birdies but the bad news was he played a stretch of five holes six over on Thursday. It happens. I see no long-term issues at all when dealing with Horschel. The sky is the limit.
Gary Woodland: He was flying high in August and September as he racked up a win and a T2 but he crashed back to earth this week playing with Horschel to shoot 71-75 and MC. He was my OAD selection so this MC should hardly surprise anyone. Woodland made 22 of 26 cuts last season so this was a bit surprising.
Jimmy Walker: WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER. Not bad for the third choice this week.
John Peterson: After five top-five finishes in his last five starts, Peterson fired four rounds under-par to finish T21. Not bad for his 15th TOUR event.
Charles Howell III: The cash cow mooed again at T33. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Hideki Matsuyama: He was T3. He’ll never be below CH III again.
Bryce Molder: His horse-for-course-ness was the intrigue but his bookend 72-73 was the killer in the end as he finished T62. He’ll be upset that this event is moving to Silverado after T11 last year and a victory in 2011.
Jonas Blixt: His T51 in his defense was decent but not the spark gamers were looking for to start 2013.
Patrick Reed: Another player who can blow hot or cold, Reed couldn’t find the form that saw him fire 63 on Sunday here last year (T11 finish) as he MC 75-70. He was four-over-par on the eighth hole alone. Damn kids…
Ben Martin: Back on TOUR for another go around, Martin looked comfortable as he pulled into the weekend 10-under and within reach. His 71 on Sunday will be disappointing but his T16 will bring smiles to the faces of gamers who have him all season long. Solid start.
Seung-Yul Noh: Swing and a miss. He made eight bogeys, three doubles and a quad. He shot 41-38 both days. He was DFL. Back to the Foley drawing board for Noh.
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 Shriners Hospital for Children Open and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (https://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (https://twitter.com/GlassWGCL) on Twitter.