Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Gallery Warms to Wire-to-Wire Hero

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Gallery Warms to Wire-to-Wire Hero

Article excerpt

SPRINGFIELD - All across his final, mud-caked round of major golf Sunday, Jimmy Walker chased the biggest galleries at Baltusrol, only catching up to the large, moving contingent of raucous New Jersey fans on the tournament's final hole.

A wire-to-wire lead hadn't been enough to elevate the little- known American to crowd favorite. That crown was being worn by Jason Day, not just the world's top-ranked golfer and defending PGA champion, not only the man directly in front of Walker and thus responsible for drawing the crowds his way, but the one who would eagle the 18th hole to pull within a shot of Walker's lead.

But even as the bleachers above that hole continued to reverberate with aftershocks from Day's dramatic putt, even as the fans openly rooted for Walker to card his first bogey of the final round just so they could watch some playoff golf, it was Walker who would win them over.

It was Walker who would rescue a terrible approach shot, one that sailed so far right of the hole it caromed off a camera and into the rough, getting it onto the green, then into the hole with two putts for a major. It was Walker who would calmly sink the final 3-foot putt as sure and true as any short putt can be hit, Walker who would fall into one long hug with his caddie followed by one even longer one with his family.

"Really cool way to finish," he said. "Making a putt like that, to win, right in the middle, was just awesome."

Yes, that was Walker who won the PGA on Sunday evening at Baltusrol, fending off that final challenge from his close friend Day, finishing off the first four-time first-time major winner golf season since 2011, putting himself in company with Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Danny Willet as new owners of the most coveted trophies in the game. That was Walker who erased all the angst over days of bad weather and threatening skies, Walker who made us forget about the rules change that had caused such early outrage among purists (one that allowed players preferred lies), Walker who introduced us to one of the most popular, if lowest profile, golfers on the tour.

Himself.

"One of the best guys I know, on and off the course," fellow Texan Ricky Fowler would say just outside the scoring tent, where he stood alongside another rising star and Texas native, Jordan Spieth, not far from the just-vanquished Day, all of them waiting for their chance to shake Walker's hand.

"That speaks to what kind of guy Jimmy is," Walker's wife Erin said, her voice catching more than once as she surveyed the scene around her. "The best players in the world are there to congratulate him. He's so humble and that's just such a classy thing."

Erin was still shaking her head at the day's events, and as a premier athlete herself (a former ski racer and current show jumper, she met Walker while volunteering at a Web. …

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