Walker holds off Day to claim his first Major championship
Fears that play would run into fourth day allayed as sun finally makes an appeareance
Jimmy Walker: At 37 claims a maiden Major in what was his sixth PGA Tour win. Photograph: Getty Images
The first miracle was bestowed by the weather gods. After days of relentless torment inflicted on the saturated course with one storm after another rolling through, a predicted front with electric bolts in its midst veered clear of Baltusrol Golf Club in the township of Springfield, New Jersey, to allow this 98th US PGA Championship to somehow reach a conclusion.
That the PGA of America managed to squash so many players onto the course for a final day’s play that saw third and fourth rounds overlap like a throwback to the old days of Vardon, Ray, Old Tom et al was akin to a second, minor miracle. The roll of the dice played by the PGA came up trumps.
And when all the numbers were crunched, it was a man who photographs stars in the night as a hobby who reached out for them . . . and just about got there. Jimmy Walker – whose astrophotography has captured images such as the Horsehead Nebula and the Pinwheel Galaxy deemed so good that Nasa have purchased the images – shot a final round 67 for an aggregate total of 266, 14-under-par. He finished just a shot clear of Jason Day, who dramatically eagled the 18th to put it up to him.
One by one, they took him on. World number one Jason Day. British Open champion Henrik Stenson. The unheralded Daniel Summerhays. Branden Grace. Brooks Koepka. Hideki Matsuyama. Walker saw them all off, stubbornly sticking to his game plan - playing a fade and refusing to be overly aggressive - and staying cool under pressure.
It was others, though, who broke first.
Charmed life Walker, at 37
and claiming a maiden Major in what was his sixth PGA Tour win, led a charmed life at times, including getting a break when he pushed his drive on the third onto a cart path but managed to get relief – without penalty – and made the most of his good fortune to salvage par.
The moments that defined Walker’s win were spaced around the course: One, was a hole-out bunker shot for birdie on the 10th hole that gave a two stroke cushion; and, energised, he rolled in 30 footer for birdie on the 11th to claim the necessary cushion to make the journey home one of avoiding any disaster and letting others come at him.
Day, who’d started off with two bogeys in his opening three holes, recovered with three birdies – on the fifth, ninth and 11th holes – before striking a 2-iron from 254 yards to set up an eagle putt on the 18th. The roars fed their way back to Walker on the 17th as he stood over a 10-foot birdie putt. The American backed off twice, before rolling the putt home.
To add to the drama, Day rolled in his 12-footer for eagle to go 67-67 for his day’s work.
He’d put it up to Walker who went for the green in two with a 3-wood rather that laying up. He finished in greenside rough, pitched to 30 feet, rolled his first putt three feet by.
Walker took his time, and rolled it in to become the fourth first-time winner of a Major this year.