Just one week after blowing a 54 hole lead and eventually losing to Patrick Reed in a playoff at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Jimmy Walker successfully defended his Sony Open title on the island of Honolulu.
Once again entering the final round with the 54-hole lead (this time 2 shots), Walker did what he could not just one week ago, blowing away the field in Hawaii to defend his title, winning by 9 shots.
Walker’s Sunday 63 featured 7 birdies and no bogeys. After parring his first 7 holes, he went on a birdie streak that saw him birdie his next three holes and five total on the back nine.
“After Monday I was kind of wondering how things were going to go,” he said. “I came in and just continued to do what I did last week, which was hit it really good, and I putted even better this week.”
As impressive as Sunday’s 63 was, it wasn’t even Walker’s lowest round of the week. The day before he fired a 62 to take the lead and was a combined 15-under par on the weekend.
“Today was all about keeping the pedal down,” Walker said. “And that’s kind of what I talked about at the beginning of the week. If I got back to that position, could we really try to extend the lead instead of just hang on.”
With the win, Walker became the first person since Ernie Els in 2004 to win back to back Sony titles and his nine shot win is the largest margin of victory in tournament history, surpassing Paul Azinger’s seven shot win in 2000.
In addition, Walker finds himself in a familiar position as the Tour transitions back to the mainland: at the top of the FedEx cup standings.
“I feel like all the hard work I’ve been doing is paying off,” he said. “I put in the time. I feel like I’ve got good people around me, and I think that’s really made the difference. They’ve helped me believe that I can be better than I am.”
While Walker was running away with the tournament at the top, all the excitement came from who was going to finish runner up.
Scott Piercy shot a final round 66, including a birdie at 16, to finish in that runner up spot at 14-under. Harris English, Matt Kuchar, and Gary Woodland finished in a tie for third at 13-under, but afterwards, all anyone could talk about was the performance by Walker.
“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.”
For Kuchar, who started the day just two behind Walker and played with him in the final group, Walker was just too hot to catch.
“I had a number of really good chances on the back nine,” Kuchar said. “I felt like I hit it very well. … I was hoping to get a little pressure on (Jimmy). I was trying to get one to go and nothing did. And Jimmy never really missed a shot. He made the game look pretty easy.”
Gary Stal Makes Improbable Comeback To Steal Win in Abu Dhabi
While, Jimmy Walker was running away with the tournament in Hawaii, Martin Kaymer was doing the opposite just a few hours earlier in Abu Dhabi.
After opening with three birdies in his first four holes, Kaymer opened up a 10 shot lead with 14 holes to play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Then the historical collapse happened.
He played those final 14 holes in 6-over par, including a double and triple bogey. All the while, little known French golfer Gary Stal fired a 7-under 65 that included seven birdies and no bogeys.
When the dust settled, Kaymer’s 10 shot lead ended up being a two shot defeat as he fell behind the winner, Stal, and eventual runner up Rory Mcllroy.
After his round, Kaymer wasn’t really sure how to explain what happened.
“A little shocked,” Kaymer said afterward. “Obviously, I didn’t play as good as the other days, but I didn’t make many mistakes; a couple of bad shots cost me. It’s difficult right after the round to say how I feel. It was definitely a very interesting day and one I need to reflect on.”
More surprising is that Kaymer is the same guy, that just a few months ago went wire-to-wire at both THE Players Championship and U.S. Open, the latter won by eight shots.
Just a surprised with the outcome as Kaymer, was eventual winner Stal.
“When I saw the leaderboard on the fifth hole, I saw Martin Kaymer on 23-under par,” said a stunned Stal. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw he was (17 under) after 15 holes.”
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