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Walker Discusses His Hot Streak
Jimmy Walker is unquestionably the hottest golfer on the planet. In only eight starts in the PGA Tour's reconfigured 2013-14 season, the 35-year-old Texan has won three times.
Walker's latest title came in last week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on California's Monterey Peninsula. Despite a shaky 2-over-par 74 in the final round, he didn't forfeit the six-stroke lead entering Sunday and managed to edge two-time AT&T winner Dustin Johnson and Jim Renner by a shot.
The AT&T victory added to his Walker's previous triumphs in October's Frys.com Open and the Sony Open in January. He's the fourth player to win his third title of the year in eight starts or less - joining Phil Mickelson (2005), David Duval (1999) and Tiger Woods (2013, '08, '07, '05, '03, '01 and '00) - since the 1999 season.
Walker's torrid stretch has earned him $3,605,833, nearly a whopping $1.5 more than Johnson. In addition, Walker has forged a 757-point lead over Harris English in the season-long FedEx Cup standings. He's also risen to 24th in the latest World Golf Rankings.
All these successes make Walker a favorite heading into the $6.7 million Northern Trust Open, which starts Thursday at famed Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. He's in one of the tournament's marquee threesomes with PGA champions Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley.
On Tuesday, Walker sat down with reporters and discussed his remarkable streak. Here's what the San Antonio resident had to tell the media during the following Q&A.
MODERATOR: Jimmy, welcome to the Northern Trust Open. You've won three of your first eight starts in the 2014 season. Talk about your thoughts on what's been going on early in the season and then we'll have many questions.
JIMMY WALKER: It's been fast. Feels like October is a long time ago, though, it really does. It happened again really fast. Everybody was kind of like, you finally won, and it happened real fast and then last week, happened again. I've been playing really well. Been playing real well for the last couple years and just biding my time, waiting around and good stuff happened.
Q. What are some examples of more versatility in your game that have helped you win?
JIMMY WALKER: One thing we talked about, having a go to shot, Butch mentioned a lot of players that he worked with, they had that go to shot and the cut really started working well, nice little cut and felt comfortable and went with that a little bit during the day at personal on Sunday. It was a nice shot. It was working pretty good. I hung a few left, which is no big deal, but then at the end of the round, I had to hit a couple of draws. Hit a nice little draw into 17 which was nice, so I kept it going both ways. That's one thing I talked about that came into play.
Q. And for a guy who played a long time and having to make that adjustment, how hard is that at that stage of your career to come up with something new and test it in competition?
JIMMY WALKER: I think the older you get, the harder it is to take advice from people, I think it's just the nature of people anyway. So I really committed myself when I went to go see him, to come in with a blank slate, that I want help and listen. I think that's hard to give in and listen to somebody, especially when you go to make a swing change or work with anybody about anything, you've got to get in and believe and buy what they are telling you. I have and I think it's been good.
Q. Tom was just in here talking Ryder Cup. Where is the Ryder Cup now on your radar, and also, second question, your wife Tweeted a photo of you driving a very large vehicle yesterday. What is that and is that how you travel on the West Coast?
JIMMY WALKER: So the Ryder Cup, it's a long way off. We've got a lot of golf in between here and there. I don't remember this much talk about the Ryder Cup in the last couple of years; I don't know if it's because I haven't been on the radar screen or what but it seems like it's a very big, pressing thing. It always has been for me and my family, we have watched it ever since I can remember. To play on it would be an honor, but it's a long way off and there's a lot of stuff in between that we are focused on before that. The RV, we've had that since 2010 and we put just 40,000 miles on it, 43,000 miles on it since then. So it's been traveling around quite a bit and we stay in it. We like it. We get to keep all the toys for the boys in there and it's a sense of home for them I think on the road. It's nice that I get to sleep in the same bed every night, same sheets and pillow and know I'm going to sleep good. We enjoy cooking out and letting the boys run around and play. It's good. We enjoy it.
Q. How much does one - I think we were talking last year, and you said before you won, maybe if I win one, more will come. How much did the second feed off the first and the third feed off the second?
JIMMY WALKER: I can't really say I was thinking about past tournaments when I was out there playing the other day on Sunday, but I think all those memories become ingrained in you and subconsciously you can start to rely on that kind of stuff. It's just like anything else, it's just practice and repetition, the more but do it, the more comfortable it becomes. I've been doing it a ay long time and I've done lots of different things out here, and some of them weren't winning, but everybody's got their little battles throughout their career and stuff. But every win was different. Every win felt different, different circumstances, different golf courses, different weather. Just more and more stuff stacked in there and stored away.
Q. I read where you talked about this being a favorite tournament of yours to play in and certainly that's not something that everybody says. Why is it a favorite tournament for you?
JIMMY WALKER: It's just ever since I've come here, the first time I stepped on the first tee, you look down and see the first hole, and the whole golf course is just right in one area, and it's really cool, all the golfers are all right there together and you can see every hole. It's great for the galleries. I think people enjoy coming out here and watching golf and just have a lot of history and I love walking through the clubhouse and seeing all the old pictures of all the great players who have come through here and played. Just something about the golf course. I really enjoy playing it, and every tee shot is just really great. I really enjoy playing here. I love coming here. I've got family here. We're actually going to dinner tonight, and it's just been a cool place. I enjoy coming here.
Q. For the casual fans in L.A., they look, well, Tiger's not here, Phil's not here, and this guy is winning all the tournaments, and they had never heard of you until last year. How would you say, for people to look up and say, tell me a little bit about yourself, as opposed to the two guys we always hear about?
JIMMY WALKER: Well, the two guys that everybody's talking about that are not here, what they have done in their careers is amazing. I'd like to think that the year that I'm having so far, it's really cool. It's fun for me. It's fun for everybody. I think people in the past have told me, you're due; you're ready to win, and I think it was just a matter of, I always felt like that and I felt like I believed, but just needed some validation, and now that I've had some, I really look forward to having the chance to get in the hunt and play. Everybody out here is really good and I know we all get kind of stuck on guys - and it's great for the sport and they have done so much for the sport. Everybody out here who is playing is good and everybody has a story. It's just a matter of hearing their stories. It's not always easy. A lot of times it's hard for a lot of guys to get settled and get playing, but everybody's got a really cool story and I think it's just a matter of hearing it.
Q. You spoke about a go to scoot that you worked with Butch and confidence; is there anything else in your game, has putting been on more than usual?
JIMMY WALKER: I feel like I've been putting pretty well. I feel like I've been making lots of putts. With the exception of - I made pretty much every putt I think - I made a lot of putts inside six feet last week. I know I missed the one on 17 but for the most part, I putted really well. I made a lot of good putts, a lot of good, saving putts. I talked about I could have made some more 15 footers, but I think we all could say that at the end of the week.
Q. Could you explain why your putting is better?
JIMMY WALKER: I've been working. I work on it. I practice. I always felt like I've been a pretty good putter. I went to go see Butch to dial in the rest of the golf game, the rest of the swing, and all that.
Q. After winning Sony, how did you feel after missing the cut at San Diego?
JIMMY WALKER: I was pretty calm. I was excited for the group and the chance to play with those two guys. Kind of came down to a little bit of a head cold, flu type stuff. My whole family got the flu the next week. We weren't feeling amazing. Didn't feel good Wednesday, didn't feel good Thursday, Friday, but I'm never going to talk about that or blame - if I'm going to tee it up, I'm going to give it all I've got. I didn't feel great, and I was one shot from making the cut, and you know, a good weekend right there would have gone a long way. I feel like with the scores, what they ended up being, I'm sure it played pretty tough on the weekends but I was just a fraction off, and not a big deal. I was pretty calm though, I wanted to play well. I've played well there the last couple of years, two golf courses I like to play.
Q. Your wife Tweeted that she liked the curling in the Olympics, that you guys like to watch that. Do you ever watch it - does it ever occur to you, in golf, it used to be stymies. Could you ever see that coming back to a match play event? Do you think it would be interesting, or do you think most guys today would look at that as something that was from another era and should have died?
JIMMY WALKER: I have no idea, I really don't. Yes, it would be interesting to watch. I think you would probably have to use a little more strategy around the greens a little bit. But I think you're still trying to get it in the hole and I can't think of too many times where - even last week where golf balls are right there together and touching and right in front of you. So it would be - I think you'd get around it. Guys are good. They can chip on the green and do all that stuff.
Q. What was it like mentally on Sunday on the back nine trying to get the bleeding stopped?
JIMMY WALKER: I did have the sense that - I wouldn't say I was bleeding, I want say I was hemorrhaging. I kept hitting it good, and the touch on the putter left a little bit, especially the uphill putt I had on 13. I hit those two really good shots into 14 and then I got a nice look at birdie right there which I really should have knocked in. We talked about that chip and historically that's a pretty he quick chip back down towards the water. I didn't really notice how soft the green was. It was very wet and dark where some of the other greens had still kept some of their - they weren't so - they were a little lighter in color. Gave myself a good lie, nipped it really good and came out with a lot of spin, came up short.
Usually in the past for me, if I was playing bad and things weren't going well, it wasn't because I was hitting it bad. It wasn't chipping or putting or anything like that. Those are the kind of things that seem to keep me from that keep me making cuts and playing, you know, getting through the round. But it was just a little bit with the putter. But my caddie today had a little tip on, he's like, I think you might have it a little too far up in your stance and we moved it back today. I noticed the putter wasn't looking as good later in the day and it might have been creeping up. It looked a lot better today. That was cool. But buried the last one of the day, that was cool. Didn't give it much thought walking down there, saw the line and saw what it did and stepped in there and made a good stroke.
Q. In the past, people Butch has worked with, he's done stuff for their confidence and the mental part, trying to make sure they realize how good they are and that they have a chance to win. How much of that did he do with you?
JIMMY WALKER: We do a lot of that. He sends me motivational texts and they are very down to earth and to the point. I think he's a pretty to the point guy and I like that about him. It was - he said it was all about winning. We didn't win last year and we had a good year, though, my best year ever, most money I had made but to him it was, we didn't win and that's what we want. He said, you want to win and that's why we play golf. So now we've got three of them, so pretty cool.
Q. Did he send you one last week?
JIMMY WALKER: Yeah, he did, just a couple throughout the week. He was a good friend of the guy I played with in the Pro Am. We talked about Jim and how good he hit it. We had a great week, had a lot of fun. There's always something kind of, Saturday night, Sunday morning, kind of a deal. We're always talking.
Q. Are those printable?
JIMMY WALKER: Yes, they are.
Q. Your thoughts about Riviera and what challenges it gives you right now?
JIMMY WALKER: You know, the greens are a little firm for about an 8 iron, 7 iron up, but they are still holding right now for a sand wedge, wedge shots, and the fairways seem to be running and the greens are very fast. It looks like the weather is going to be good so I think this place is going to get really fast. It seems like it should and could and would. So I think that's how this place ought to play and I think it will be a good week.
Q. You talked a little bit ago about how to last year, you were sort of struggling to find the make through, you knew the ability was always there. Given how long it took - were you thinking about life beyond golf or just keeping doing it until it clicks?
JIMMY WALKER: I think it was about three or four years ago, I kept finishing 120th, 125th 100, it's a lot of work. It's tough. It's a grind. It's a long year. You're playing a lot of tournaments when you're kind of finishing back there and it was tough. I really wanted to make a shift and really try to get better because I wasn't having much fun playing golf, and I feel like I was out killing myself and didn't have a lot to show for it and I wanted to win and it wasn't happening. I said, I really have to figure out how to get better. Just through looking at things a little differently and pulling new people, getting my body in better shape and healthy and getting my neck feel better and having the confidence that I could stay healthy for the year, I slowly just started a nice little trend up, and my numbers have gotten better and better and better and better, so I think all the stuff we did was good work.
Q. And how much - you talked about your family, does that play into it to where you want to make sure that you're to a position where you can provide for them and get everything you need?
JIMMY WALKER: We were definitely being provided for. They were being we were definitely making enough money. But, you know, we do enjoy being home. I enjoy seeing my kids. It was kind of a point where like I just want to get better. I don't want to stay out here and keep grinding and beating myself up. I think I remember saying, I'd rather stay home, I think I can get a pretty good job and make about the same amount of money and be home and enjoy it and watch my kids grow up. But we've been working hard and I've always worked hard, but it was just a little bit of a change on how I did stuff.
Q. Did you ever give any thought on what kind of job you would have got?
JIMMY WALKER: No clue. I didn't want to. I wanted to be out here. This is what I've always wanted to do.
MODERATOR: Thanks for your time, Jimmy, good luck this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.