Jimmy Walker wins Sony Open by record 9 strokes
HONOLULU (AP) — Six days after losing a tournament on Maui he felt he should have won, Jimmy Walker turned in a command performance Sunday on Oahu. He blew away the field with a 7-under 63 to win the Sony Open for the second straight year.
His fourth career victory was the most impressive of all. On a course that lends itself to a free-for-all, Walker shot 62-63 on the weekend and never gave anyone much of a chance, winning by a tournament-record nine shots. The previous record was seven shots, last set in 2000 by Paul Azinger.
Walker became the first repeat winner at the Sony Open since Ernie Els in 2004.
Scott Piercy closed with a 66 to finish alone in second. Matt Kuchar, who started the final round two shots out of the lead, didn’t make a birdie and shot 71 to tie for third with Harris English and Gary Woodland, who each had a 67. Kuchar ended his streak of 255 rounds on the PGA Tour with at least one birdie.
But this was Walker’s show, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Walker had a three-shot lead with five holes to play at Kapalua last Monday when he wound up losing to Patrick Reed in a playoff at the Tournament of Champions. With a quick turnaround, he quickly put it behind him.
“I really wanted to finish out the day like I didn’t do last week,” Walker said.
He finished at 23-under 257.
The text message Sunday morning from swing coach Butch Harmon was the same thing caddie Andy Sanders said over every putt: “Don’t let up.”
The decisive moment came at the par-4 eighth hole. Walker and Kuchar both opened with seven straight pars, and Walker stuffed his approach to 3 feet for birdie. Kuchar pulled his tee shot into the royal palms, punched out short of the green and made bogey.
That two-shot swing gave Walker a four-shot lead, and he was on his way.
Walker made all seven of his birdies over the final 11 holes, and he couldn’t miss on the back nine. He took a total of 20 putts on the back nine at Waialae in the third and fourth rounds. And even with a big lead, he kept grinding away over putts he didn’t need to make.
It was the largest margin of victory on the PGA Tour since Brian Gay won at Hilton Head by 10 shots in 2009. This was more reminiscent of the last time someone lost in a playoff, and then won the next week. That was Kyle Stanley in 2012, though the circumstances were entirely different.
Stanley made triple bogey on the last hole at Torrey Pines and then lost in a playoff. He won Phoenix the following week with a great rally. Walker didn’t do that much wrong at Kapalua except for one bad swing off the tee and failing to make a few putts. Still, the loss stung, and he was more than happy to head home to Texas for a two-week break with another trophy.
“He’s one of the hottest players in the world,” Piercy said after his round, when Walker was pulling away. “What he’s done the last year or two years, nobody’s catching him. It’s just a cake walk.”
Walker didn’t treat it like one, which might be why he won by such a healthy margin.
It was his fourth win in his last 32 starts, and he should move up to No. 13 in the world ranking. During his two-week stay in Hawaii, Walker averaged 66 each round and picked up just under $1.7 million. Most importantly, he’s going home with another trophy.