Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Golf [Print without images]

Monday, January 13, 2014
Jimmy Walker's win sets table for '14

By Bob Harig
ESPN.com

There is something to be said for resilience. Jimmy Walker has shown plenty of that in an eight-year career that didn't yield much in the way of big-time results until now.

Jimmy Walker
After 72 holes at the Sony Open, Jimmy Walker sat atop the leaderboard. The implications of his second PGA Tour win of the 2013-14 season might be felt for years to come.

Set to celebrate his 35th birthday Thursday, Walker has now won two of his past six starts on the PGA Tour after beginning his career 0-for-187. His victory Sunday at the Sony Open after winning the Frys.com Open in October -- the first event of the 2013-14 season -- has set him up for a monster year.

"I've always felt like I belonged, and you need affirmation every now and then, and the win a couple months ago was like, yeah, OK, I can do it," Walker said after a final-round 63 at Waialae Country Club. "I did it; I was supposed to be able to do it, everybody told me I was supposed to do, and I finally did it.

"And then it's, well, are you going to be the guy that won and you never hear from again, or are you going to win again and are you going to win again? I've always felt like I could, and it's nice to get it done and do it again."

No doubt, Walker wasted little time, and it's meaningful in ways beyond the trophies and the prize money.

Walker has never played in a Masters, which he will do for the first time in April. His only two starts in the U.S. Open were more than a decade ago. He played in his first Open Championship last year and missed the cut. In three PGA Championships, he has missed two cuts and tied for 21st. Walker also has never played in a World Golf Championship event.

All of that is in play now, and, by getting starts in no-cut events, putting himself atop the FedEx Cup standings -- although it's very early -- and getting to play in the majors, he makes easier the task of qualifying for all those events in 2015.

On top of all that, Walker leads the U.S. Ryder Cup standings at the moment, too.

1. Coach's corner
A little less than two years ago, Walker began working with noted instructor Butch Harmon, the results clearly paying off.

"When I went and saw him, he said, 'I believe in you and I believe you've got a lot of talent, and I think you're underutilizing what you've got,'" Walker said. "He said, 'I want to work and make things better,' and I think it's been great. I really enjoy hanging out with him. He's a very confident person. When he tells you something, you believe it. And it's been great. I've really enjoyed my time with him, and I'm going to keep enjoying my time with him."

It appears there will be plenty for Walker to enjoy through the rest of this year.

2. Kelly's casual attitude
Jerry Kelly has never been known as the laid-back type. His intensity has been a big part of his personality in a three-victory PGA Tour career that dates to his first full season in 1996.

Now 47, Kelly found himself battling a bunch of 20-somethings Sunday at the Sony Open, where he eventually finished third. It was his first top-three finish since 2011 but put him on his way toward qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs in every year of its existence. Kelly has won more than $25 million in his career.

"Starting with a bogey, I was happy the way I came back," said Kelly, whose final-round 65 left him 2 strokes behind winner Jimmy Walker. "Showed some good mental fortitude there. It's something I've been lacking in recent years. I tried to get myself to relax a little bit, work my way through the rest of my career and enjoy it, and that's what I'm going to try and do."

3. Louis' back
He defended his title at the Volvo Champions, but Louis Oosthuizen is still dealing with injuries, specifically his back, that knocked him out of three major championships in 2013. Oosthuizen had to withdraw from the U.S. Open and the Open Championship and did not enter the PGA Championship -- a year after losing in a playoff to Bubba Watson at the Masters.

"Hopefully I can build from here on," said Oosthuizen, who won the 2010 Open at St. Andrews. "I've got three weeks now where I've really got to work on my back. It's still not 100 percent."

Oosthuizen's victory marked the fourth straight year he has opened the new year with a victory.

4. Padraig sighting
Padraig Harrington is going on six years without a victory on either the PGA Tour or European Tour, having not won since capturing his third major championship -- and third out of six played -- at the 2008 PGA Championship. There have been myriad issues since -- constant tinkering with his swing, putting problems -- but the Irishman showed some form at the Volvo Champions in South Africa.


Harrington tied for fifth, just 3 strokes behind winner Louis Oosthuizen, but again rued his putting.

"It's a bit like the end of last year," Harrington said. "Happy with the way I'm hitting the ball but distraught with my putting."

Before the tournament, Harrington, 40, had dropped to 134th in the world. Sunday was his first top-five finish since he finished fourth at the same tournament a year ago. Since that result, Harrington managed just three worldwide top-10s, the last a 10th at the Valero Texas Open the week before the Masters.

5. Next up
The PGA Tour heads from Hawaii back to the mainland for the first in a stretch of four tournaments in five weeks to be played in California as part of the West Coast Swing. The Humana Challenge is the ninth event on the 2013-14 schedule and will be played over three courses in La Quinta, Calif., with a cut coming after 54 holes.

The European Tour heads to the Middle East for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the first of three tournaments in the region. Rory McIlroy is set to make his 2014 debut, and Phil Mickelson is also playing in the tournament at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.