Jimmy Walker aiming to return to winning ways

American bids to defend his Texas Open as Pádraig Harrington returns to action

 Jimmy Walker:  “You never know when you’re going to get hot . . . it may start this week.” Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Jimmy Walker: “You never know when you’re going to get hot . . . it may start this week.” Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

 

US Tour: Jimmy Walker will happily swap his traditional early season success for finding form when it really matters as he tries to defend his Valero Texas Open title.

After 187 PGA Tour events without a victory, Walker won three times early in the 2014 season and added two more titles before the end of March last year.

The 37-year-old made a successful defence of the Sony Open in Hawaii with a nine-stroke winning margin, having lost a play-off to Ryder Cup team-mate Patrick Reed in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions the previous week, and then beat fellow Texan Jordan Spieth by four shots at TPC San Antonio.

That win took Walker into the world’s top 10 for the first time, but he has since fallen to 25th and has a best finish of tied fourth in the Farmers Insurance Open so far in 2016.

“I knew that with what I’ve done the last two years, you’re going to come to a point it’s probably not going to happen and we hit it,” said Walker.

“I would love for the year to really start to take off in the middle of the season this year. Or the end. How cool would that be? The season builds and builds and builds right to the end.

This week

Walker certainly has plenty to aim for in the middle of a crowded 2016, which sees the US Open, Open Championship and US PGA crammed into a seven-week period to make room for the Olympics, with the men’s event in Rio starting 11 days after the US PGA finishes.

And to that end the five-time PGA Tour winner has been working on some weaknesses in his game which he identified after finishing 29th in the Masters.

“I feel like I’ve just been missing out just a little bit here and there . . .,” said Walker. “It’s mostly just short game. Just haven’t been getting up and down enough, not pitching it close enough. Bunker game has been struggling a little bit.”

Pádraig Harrington, meanwhile, resumes tournament play after a couple of weeks at home. Harrington’s last outing was at the Shell Houston Open when he missed the cut for only the second time this season.

He attributed his poor scoring to getting “caught up in technique” after working on his swing in the days leading up to the event with coach Pete Cowen. Harrington felt he couldn’t trust the swing change, which improved his ball flight and distance on the range but which didn’t translate to the course.

He hopes the extra two weeks to embed the change into his swing will reap dividends in Texas. European Tour: Paul Dunne – whose top-20 finish in the Spanish Open moved him inside the world’s top-400 for the first time – has received an invite into this week’s Shenzhen International in China, but will likely need a top-10 finish if he is to also get into the field for next week’s China Open. Dunne and Michael Hoey are the only two Irishmen competing.

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