Popular Jimmy Walker steps up to take final Major
Winning US PGA Championship seals Texan’s place on Love’s team for Ryder Cup
Jimmy Walker celebrates with his son after sinking his putt on the 18th hole to win the 98th US PGA Championship.Photograph: Jason Szenes/EPA
The job was done just in time before darkness, rather than any weather front, called a halt.
And as Jimmy Walker lifted the Wanamaker Trophy as US PGA Championship winner at Baltusrol golf club to become the fourth different Major champion of the year, that act reaffirmed that this is a period in the sport where dominance is not a factor.
Unlike the time when Tiger Woods strode the fairways like a colossus and was the man everyone had to beat to get their hands on the most precious pieces of silverware, this current crop of players has a depth rather than a standout player who is far above everyone.
And perhaps that depth of strength is better for the sport and a confirmation that golf is in a much better place.
Nobody provided the proof better than Walker, the champion. A year or two ago the Texan – with three tour wins in 2014 and two in 2015 – would have been on everyone’s lips as a possible breakthrough Major winner. But not this time if we’re honest.
He had fallen down the world rankings to 48th, had not managed a top-10 in a tournament since the WGC-Cadillac at Doral in March, and had missed the cut in a series of big events, including The Players, the US Open and the British Open.
Nope, he wasn’t on our radar.
Yet as if to prove the point that the pool of talent on tour is probably larger than at any point in the sport’s history, Walker got the job done.
Walker’s win also ensured that bond would extend to playing in the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine later in the season.
Indeed, the past five winners of Majors – Jason Day (2015 US PGA), Danny Willett (2016 Masters), Dustin Johnson (2016 US Open), Henrik Stenson (2016 British Open) and now Walker (2016 US PGA) – are unquestionably worthy champions. All are testament to the ever larger pool of potential winners.
Day is the world’s number one, and he – more than anyone – put it up to Walker. His two-iron off the 18th tee and two-iron approach to set up an eagle on the 18th reaffirmed his capabilities. He could yet prove to be the lead man. But not yet. It takes more than one Major title on a CV to be considered the dominant player.
Walker’s win resonated for a number of reasons.
Firstly, he has worked his way through the system from the Web.Com Tour on to the main tour and graduated from winning regular tournaments to one of the most prized of all.
Secondly, he did it with a caddie – Andy Sanders, who by a quirk of fate he first met at Baltusrol when both were competing in the US Amateur at Baltusrol in 2000 – who, stricken with multiple sclerosis, provides a very human touch to the accomplishment.
“Everything worked. My head was there. I was in every shot. I felt like, all year, take a step forward, two back, step back, two steps back, three steps forward, step back. I’ve just been kind of in limbo.”
This win brought him to the promised land, and also sealed his place on Davis Love’s team for the Ryder Cup.
“I thought about that all year. I haven’t played as well as I would have liked to, I’m not on the list, I’m not even close.I saw Davis [in Baltusrol] and I told him, ‘man, I’d love to be on your team. Haven’t played that well this year, but I feel like there’s still time for me to play good at the end of the year to have a chance to get on the team or get the nod to get picked’.”
He has made it on his own.