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Sunday, October 13, 2013
Updated: October 14, 2:54 PM ET
What to make of tour's season opener

ESPN.com

It might have taken Jimmy Walker a while to earn that first PGA Tour victory -- 188 starts, to be exact -- but now that he's won the Frys.com Open in the 2013-14 season opener, he's free and clear through the 2015-16 season.

So what made the difference in that maiden victory? And what should we make of 23-year-old Brooks Koepka bursting on to the scene?

Our scribes tackle those topics and more in this week's edition of Monday Four-Ball.


1. What proved most critical to Jimmy Walker's first PGA Tour win?

Jimmy Walker
With his triumph at the Frys.com Open, Jimmy Walker notched his first win in 188 PGA Tour starts.

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: As much as I like Walker, he didn't win; Brooks Koepka lost. Walker was just there to pick up the trophy Koepka dropped. Walker didn't do anything wrong, but on a day when 11 guys shot 4-under or better, his round of 5-under isn't going to end up on ESPN Classic.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Nothing against Walker, who has been a solid player on tour for close to a decade, but Koepka should have won that tournament. The next time the 23-year-old rookie has a four-shot lead with 11 holes to play, he will be better prepared. Meanwhile, Walker got over the hump with this win, and there should be more good finishes from him over the next year.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Walker's Saturday 62 was a big help. It put him in position to take advantage if Koepka faltered, and that's exactly what happened. Then Walker backed it up with another solid score (66) on a day when you needed to be under par to win.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: His putter. Over four rounds, Walker drained almost 450 feet worth of putts at CordeValle. That's the main reason he also led the week in strokes-gained putting at 3.073. That was more than a full stroke better per round than Kevin Na, who was at 2.017.


2. True or false: We will see Brooks Koepka in contention to win a PGA Tour or European Tour event in the next 12 months.

Collins: True. He's already won a few times worldwide in his career, so the next time he gets in contention on the biggest stage he won't make the same mistake he made this past week.

Evans: True. Once the former Florida State star solidifies his playing status on the PGA Tour, he will begin to get into contention. Until then, it's hard to get comfortable out there if you're depending on sponsor's exemptions to get into events. That's a lot of pressure for anybody to handle.

Harig: True. We just saw it over the weekend. He was right there and couldn't quite close. But he's already shown he's got plenty of game, having secured European Tour status by winning on the Challenge Tour.

Maguire: True. This kid -- he is only 23, after all -- drew high praise from Phil Mickelson in July while playing a practice round. Lefty spoke highly of Koepka's putting, even if that smooth stroke bailed on him down the stretch Sunday at CordeValle. He'll be back, that's for sure.


3. Thumbs-up or thumbs-down to Champions Tour players teeing it up in PGA Tour events.

Collins: Thumbs way up! And imagine when Fred Couples gets into contention at Riviera in January on Sunday. OK -- full disclosure -- I love a little drama because it's Vijay Singh with the lawsuit and all. So sue me. No, wait, I didn't mean that!

Evans: Thumbs-up. Fred Funk and Singh fall into categories that allowed them in the field at the Frys -- they earned the right to be there. As long as players are competitive on the regular tour, it doesn't matter if they are over 50. With a second at the Frys, Singh showed he has plenty of game left.

Harig: Thumbs-up. Golf is a bottom-line game, and if you're eligible to play and can put up the scores to compete against the young guys, why not? For Vijay Singh, it didn't look like age was much of a factor as he finished second at the Frys.com Open.

Maguire: Thumbs-down. Yes, by rule, they are allowed to play with the younger set. As we saw with Singh this weekend, some can even challenge for a victory. Overall, though, they are taking spots from guys who are trying to make a name for themselves, and I'd rather see an up-and-comer than someone over 50 trying to cash a bigger paycheck than they would get on the Champions Tour.


4. Which top-10 finisher impressed you the most at CordeValle?

Collins: Max Homa. Unlike Brooks Koepka, Max shot all four rounds in the 60s and has played his way into Las Vegas this week. You might want to bet on him to have another top-10.  

Evans: Hideki Matsuyama, who finished in a tie for third, continues to impress me. He has so much talent, and coupled with his experience winning in Japan, it wouldn't be surprising to see him win one of the fall tour events. He might be only 21, but he's got the temperament and composure of a 35-year-old veteran.

Harig: There were several impressive results in Week 1 of the new season, but Hideki Matsuyama's tie for third stands out. The Japanese star posted his best finish on the PGA Tour, and he has not finished worse than 21st in his limited PGA Tour starts.

Maguire: Hideki Matsuyama. The 21-year-old from Japan continued his torrid play on the PGA Tour with a T-3 finish on Sunday. The $240,000 that he pocketed will give him a nice head start on keeping his card for next fall, which should allow him to breathe a little easier.