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Walker Breaks Through at Last


The PGA Tour is awash in rapid success stories, with 20-year-old Jordan Spieth making the latest meteoric rise by a golf prodigy.

And then there's Jimmy Walker, a 34-year-old who's been searching for success since turning pro in 2001. On Sunday, the native of Oklahoma finally got his first victory in his 188th start on the PGA Tour.

After opening with rounds of 70, 69 and 62 in the Frys.com Open - the latter of which tied the course record at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, Calif., Walker polished off his maiden title with a clutch 5-under 66 to end up at 17-under 267, two strokes better than grizzled veteran, Vijay Singh.

In addition to a much-needed $900,000 payday and 500 FedEx Cup points, Walker also earned a spot in next year's Masters, a two-year Tour exemption and miscellaneous other perks for being a Tour winner.

On Sunday evening, the folksy golfer sat down with reporters and discussed the long journey that prepared him, at last, for success. Here's what he had to say.

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the winner of the 2013 Frys.com Open, Jimmy Walker. Congratulations on your first career PGA Tour victory here in the first event of the '13/'14 PGA Tour season. Talking about schedule changing quite a bit with this. With that, I'll turn it over to you for some comments on the week.

JIMMY WALKER: You know, it was funny. We all were kind of like, Happy New Year this week, and, How's it going? What did you do in your off season? It started up really fast. It did feel different. You know, I took my three weeks off that I had and I was doing a lot of working out. Went to a wedding up in Canada and went and did a little crash session with Butch right before I came here. Just fast and furious. Pretty cool. It's hard to describe so far.

MODERATOR: With that, we'll take some questions.

Q. We hear so much about Jordan, (indiscernible). What does it mean to you to not have been that prodigy, to have waited all this time to get this breakthrough?

JIMMY WALKER: I wasn't good enough to play golf on Tour when I was 20, 21 like these guys are. I mean, they are really good. I've gone through everything. I've played - not on every tour, but on a lot of tours. I won on a lot of tours. This is kind of the final steppingstone. Just continue to keep doing it and keep playing well. It feels great. Wouldn't take back anything I've ever done or anything I've ever gone through to get here.

Q. I've got four questions. I'll try and keep it short. When you went up to 18 after you came off 17, did you have any idea that Brooks had gone into the water?

JIMMY WALKER: No.

Q. Secondly, what did you do differently today that you didn't do in the previous close calls that you've had? What did you learn today, I guess?

JIMMY WALKER: I think it's going to be a little bit of sitting back and thinking about it. I tried to stay as calm as I could. Pars are fine. Bogeys, you still don't want to make any bogeys in the last round. Try not to. I knew I was playing well, hitting it good, putting well, and it was just a matter of time before a putt went in. One went in on the second hole and kind of helps calm me down a little bit. I had some gut checks on 5 and 6 and pulled through 'em. That was big. That really helped propel me through the rest of the day. Just kept hitting it solid, lots of greens. It was good.

Q. When you get it 15, knowing that you guys are not tied, Brooks is one behind you, you've two reachable well a reachable 5 and a reachable 4, can you just talk about what you were thinking about then.

JIMMY WALKER: Yeah, I made a good two putt on 14. That was good. Played a little too safe on the left side of the green, and then I get up on 15 tee and I knew I needed to hit a good drive. Wind off the left. It's not my favorite wind. I hit a really good tee ball, Great shot onto the green. Made a good two putt. So that was big. You know when you need to make birdies and when you're supposed to make birdies on par 5s. As far as I hit it, you know you're supposed to do that. It felt good to get the birdie there. Kept putting good swings on it the rest of the way, so...

Q. How would you articulate the significance of landing a spot in the Masters? It's the first year that this tournament has awarded a Masters invitation. How top of mind was that this morning after getting ready? Or maybe on the putt on 18?

JIMMY WALKER: It's cool. You know, so close last year or this year on getting into the top 30 and all that. I watched Augusta since I was a kid. Friend of ours, he took us to Augusta. Took my dad with us and my dad and I got to play together for the first time. We stayed in cabins. It was amazing. For us to be able to go back and play in the tournament, it's another dream come true. Always dreamt about it. It's going to be amazing. I'm really looking forward to it. There is a bunch other stuff. Never played Kapalua. Kapalua is going to be awesome. Never been there. Hear it's amazing. So a lot of cool stuff.

Q. When did you play Augusta with your dad?

JIMMY WALKER: We played about 2009, I think. We played in January or December, I can't remember. Just a cool experience. Guy that took us was amazing. We had a great time. My dad birdied three out of four par 5s. Had a blast. Couldn't have done any better. I don't think it could have been any more special if I had played the tournament for the first time. It was me and my dad getting to do it, and it was really cool.

Q. First time you had ever played it?

JIMMY WALKER: First time.

Q. And it was a family friend you said?

JIMMY WALKER: Business friend.

Q. He was a member?

JIMMY WALKER: Uh huh.

Q. Any chance of getting his name?

JIMMY WALKER: Paul Servadi.

Q. Did that make it even more incentive to get there?

JIMMY WALKER: Oh, yeah. You mean this year?

Q. No, I'm just saying having played it, knowing what you were missing in other words.

JIMMY WALKER: This game is tough. It'll beat you up. You can't keep thinking about what could've been. You can only learn from it and keep going. That's what I try to do, just try to keep getting better. Everything you do, hopefully you can learn from and build on it. That's what I try to do. Everything you do. Like I feel like I learned something on the last hole today. I'll put that in my pocket. It was good.

Q. What were your expectations coming into the week, and what did it your crash session with Butch entail?

JIMMY WALKER: Wasn't so much a crash session. It was just continuing to do the things that he and I have been working on and really kind of hammer down some of the things that I do wrong. We worked on 'em. Worked for two and a half days and it was great. I had three weeks off. I had been working out trying to get back into shape for the full year coming up, and so my body felt a little different. As the week went on it kept feeling better and better and better. Putter was working all week. As far as expectations, I try not to really have any going into a golf tournament. You start thinking what's ahead, I think it gets you out of your frame of mind. You want to go in, hit good shots, be as prepared as possible. That's kind of how I go about it.

Q. Of all the perks you'll get for winning, essentially a three year Tour exemption now, is that the biggest of all the spoils of victory?

JIMMY WALKER: It feels nice. You know, when you don't win and you don't rack up the two or three year exemption or whatever you're talking about, you always start your off on going, I'm ground zero. I got to start from the bottom and go get it. I had always wondered, Will it change the way you think about things if you win? But I want to stay hungry. I want to keep when you win, I think you want to win again and then you want to win again. You got to stay hungry. It's amazing when you come out for the first tournament of the year and you see all these young guys. You saw it today. Two sponsor exemptions it seemed like were in the top 10 or right there. There are a lot of fresh, young kids coming out, and everybody is a getting better and everybody wants a spot out here. You got to stay on top of your game and keep getting better.

Q. That pretty much follows up on what I was going to ask you about. Looking at the end of the previous season for you, and it looked like you had the second at Greenbrier and also some cuts that you missed there at the end. It reads like feast or famine. Obviously there is a fine line between success out here. Was there something along the way where you said, Hey, I got to get this consistency, and you come into the off season and looked like you rededicated yourself to working out harder?

JIMMY WALKER: No, I really hit the gym and get back in shape and build a good base, because the year beats you up. I been pretty consistent. I think I finished off a stretch of 25 straight cuts this year. So I was playing really consistent golf and just got into a little bit of a funk there kind of after Dallas. Then I played really good at Greenbrier. I've good history there in the past. Got into a bunch of tournaments. Got into the British and the PGA and just missing a little bit. Wasn't putting real well, so worked hard on that. The playoffs were okay for me. I came out fighting hard at the BMW and put on a good show there and was real close. Being consistent, being around the top 10, winning, that's what we with work for.

Q. The last guy that had a shot at you was Vijay. Does it matter when he's the one chasing you down the stretch, a Hall of Famer?

JIMMY WALKER: I knew that he had that I had a little putt on the last hole, and he had that putt down the hill. I know if he makes that, it makes you know, you run all these little scenarios. I have to make this little putt to win. Then he missed, and you're like, Well, I can two putt this and win. That's easy. You should bury it. Snuck it in the hole. I had fun playing with Vijay today. He's a great guy. He's very nice. We had a good time. Yeah, you know, when you think about what he's done and all the wins he's had, it was cool. It was fun. It was a fun day.

Q. When you see the influx of new faces and youth year after year, do you have to fight the sense that your window may be closing?

JIMMY WALKER: No. I don't think my window is closing. I think it just opened up a little today. I don't feel old. I don't think I'm old. I hit the ball farther than all these kids do, so I'm not worried about that. But everybody is getting better and they're getting younger. I think it's really cool. So it's nice to see young kids come out and play well. Got to stay on top of it.

Q. What did you not have at 22 that these kids have? You said you didn't think you were ready for it.

JIMMY WALKER: I don't know. I came out of school and I was a good college player. All American last year at Baylor. Felt like I was really learning how to play golf. Just started with my first coach I ever had. Took my really first lesson as a junior in college. He really helped me get a lot better. Over time, you just got to keep learning and coming up with new stuff and exploring new avenues.

Q. How would you describe with each close call and each start that goes by without a win, how would you describe the feeling? Impatience? Frustration?

JIMMY WALKER: You know, you get frustrated, but you can't dwell and dwindle on it. Yeah, you know, it's tough when you get close and you want to win and it doesn't happen. You finish second and it's not what you wanted. Still a great day and a lot of people would love to have it, but you want to win. Haven't won a golf tournament in a long time. Since the 2007, I think. So I've taken a little time off. Feels pretty good.

Q. Your Greenbrier finish this year got you into the Open, right?

JIMMY WALKER: Uh huh.

Q. Just seems like these tournaments, you've been around a lot of the bubble the last two, three years. Was there a part of you feeling like you should be...

JIMMY WALKER: Yeah, you know, I felt like I was good enough to be in them and felt like I was good enough to play in 'em. I always fell like there was always this big press to get into Augusta. I would start going away from game plans and how I would play and you press too much and press a little here and a little there. This year I felt like I did a better job of that. Yeah, I mean, you want to be playing in the big stuff. That's what I'm aspiring to do, is play in the big events. I want to play in the big events. I want to play against the world's best, so that's why I'm out here.

Q. You cracked top 50 in the world. Is that any significance to you?

JIMMY WALKER: You mean in China?

Q. I don't think so.

JIMMY WALKER: Don't think so?

Q. Did I just ruin your day?

JIMMY WALKER: No, no. Top 50? I don't know. That's the highest I've ever been ranked. What did I move to?

Q. Not in yet, but I'm guessing about 46.

JIMMY WALKER: Okay. Well, I mean, that's the highest I've ever been ranked. I feel like I've got a nice trend curve going, and just want to keep going up.

Q. What is your dad's name?

JIMMY WALKER: Jim.

Q. Paul Servadi.

JIMMY WALKER: Yeah. It's P a u l, S a r v a d i.

Q. What about your round at Augusta? What do you do?

JIMMY WALKER: I shot even par on the first day we played, and it was very wet. It played really long. Then the next day we played in 38 degree weather. I think I that's the only place on the planet you will go out and play when it's 38 and drizzling. We played the back nine. We played nine hole. I shot 1 under and it was nasty. I remember the first day I hit driver, 7 iron up into 18. Then the last day we played I hit driver and a hybrid into the green. Played completely different. It was hard, but it was cool. What a great experience. My dad, staying in the cabins. I think we stayed in Palmer's cabin. Played the par 3 course. We did it all. It was ridiculous.

Q. (No microphone.)

JIMMY WALKER: My dad shot 60 before. Doesn't play much anymore. Really good player. Took me until I was 15 for the first time before I ever beat him. I think I caught him on an off day. At our home course he couldn't be beat. Pros would come in and he would kick them back to their car. He was really good for a long time. I went to school, a friend passed away, and a couple other things happened where he just didn't get out on the golf course much anymore. Just faded for him. Still got a wicked short game. Still putts. We go out and do chipping and putting a lot. He's a really good player. Lots of 62s. Shot 60. Really good player.

Q. You every shot 60?

JIMMY WALKER: 61.

Q. So he's got that on you.

JIMMY WALKER: He's got that on me. I had the lowest aggregate score on our home course, though. I always remind him of that.

Q. You think Augusta was January of '09 you said?

JIMMY WALKER: Yeah, something like that.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.