HONOLULU – With three straight birdies from Nos. 15-17 during Sunday’s final round, Jimmy Walker assumed command of the Sony Open and earned the second victory of the wraparound PGA Tour season – and his career.
Walker’s final-round 63 at Waialae Country Club, keyed by a back-nine 30, was good for a 17-under 263 and a one-shot margin over Chris Kirk, who closed with 66. Jerry Kelly (66) finished third at 15-under 265.
Here are 5 Things to know from Sunday’s final round:
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1. WALKER WINS AGAIN: Even after four birdies in five holes down the stretch gave him a three-shot lead as he headed to the final tee, Jimmy Walker didn’t have a win locked up as he stood over a birdie try inside 10 feet on the 18th green.
When that putt fell away to the right and he tapped in for par, third-round leader Chris Kirk’s finish came into play. Two shots back of Walker after birdieing the 17th, Kirk hit a big drive into the right rough but had a decent approach to reach the par-5 finishing hole in two; the shot stopped short of the green, but close enough to the front-left pin to provide a reasonable eagle try. Kirk chipped long and right of the hole.
Walker’s Sunday round was his only bogey-free tour of Waialae this week – and the $1,008,000 winner’s check helped him surpass his 2013 earnings in just six tournaments.
“I stayed patient; I said if i didn’t make any bogeys today, I had enough firepower this week,” Walker said. “. . . I made a really key par putt over about 14, which was really big, and then the string of birdies there was pretty awesome.”
Walker said his first win, just five events ago at October’s Frys.com Open in this year’s wraparound schedule on PGA Tour, indeed helped pave the way for victory Sunday.
“You learn so much out here and it took me a long time to do it, and I feel like I did learn a lot that week,” Walker said. “I felt very calm and under control, and that’s what everybody’s been saying – that’s what you’ve got to feel and do when it’s time to win. It’s easy to say, hard to do.”
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2. TIME FOR A VACATION: Adam Scott made a last-gasp effort to win the Sony Open during Sunday’s final round, but came up short with a 4-under 66.
After a 1-over 71 in Saturday’s third round, Scott found himself six shots off of Chris Kirk’s lead at 12 under.
With a two-tee start in the final round, Scott was first off the back nine and immediately made up ground with a birdie on the 10th hole. The Australian would record four more birdies and make the turn at 5-under 30, at the time just one shot behind Kirk as the leader was just getting ready to begin his final round.
“I was liking my position there,” Scott said after his last round before a six-week vacation. “I was making today a lot of fun, but I didn’t play very well on the next nine. I just was in the rough too much, unfortunately. It’s just such a hard course to get it going around here.”
Two bogeys on the first four holes of the front nine and Scott would fall down the leaderboard and eventually come to rest at 10 under, good for a T-8 finish.
“I’ll work on my game a lot,” Scott said of what he will do on his PGA Tour hiatus. “I think there’s plenty of work on after the last couple weeks.”
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3. ENGLISH LESSON: Harris English capped his round by playing his last four holes in 1 over, which made the difference as he slid from second to fourth and finished 14 under for the week.
In contrast, Walker played Waialae’s final four holes in 3 under en route to victory, as runner-up Kirk did the same; third-place finisher Kelly played them in 2 under.
Still, a 66-66-67-67 week is nothing to sneeze at. And the Georgia Bulldogs product has yet to miss a cut in the 2013-14 season, his worst finish a T-40 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. His last MC came at The Barclays during the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
It could be a while until English contends again, however: His best finish during last year’s West Coast Swing was a T-51 at the Northern Trust Open, and a T-7 at the Tampa Bay Championship was his only top-50 finish in Florida.
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4. HISTORY BUFF’S SILVER LINING: When Simon Clark moved to Japan to study World War II history, the veteran caddie from Australia had no idea he’d end up looping for young phenom Ryo Ishikawa someday. But when the promising young player missed the cut at this week’s Sony Open, it was study time again for Clark.
“I can’t wait to go to Pearl Harbor,” Clark said.
Known on the Japan Golf Tour for making the yardage books for players and caddies the last 20 years, Clark started caddying without any experience but ended up carrying the bags of Graham Marsh, Craig Parry, Peter Senior and Jessica Korda, among others.
Geoff Ogilvy’s caddie, Matthew “Bussy” Tritton, has been best friends with Clark since they were teenagers. “He was just a student who started off at a golf club. He knew nothing about caddying and then he started making a few books. I was living at Denmark at the time, traveling the world, and he told he to come to Japan to help him make the books. And he’s a very good writer.”
Clark hasn’t finished college, but golf just might continue to be his moneymaker even if he earns his degree someday.
“I still have to do a final review,” Clark said. “Look, there’s not much I can do with that unless I teach. There’s no real career in World War II studies.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Chris Kirk’s 8-footer on the final hole for birdie was worth $112,000, the difference between a tie for second with Jerry Kelly ($492,800) and solo second ($604,800). . . . Charles Howell III posted his second consecutive 66 to finish T-8 at 10 under and record his eighth top-10 finish at the Sony Open; the Augusta, Ga., native never has won at Waialae in 13 appearances. . . . Playing on a sponsor exemption, Ryuji Imada finished T-19 for his best finish on the PGA Tour since a T-10 at the True South Classic in July 2012. . . . Defending champion Russell Henley missed the pro-am due to illness and after a 3-over, 73 in the first round was on a plane to the mainland; but a 65 on Friday helped Henley make the cut and he went on to card consecutive 69s on the weekend, finishing T-51 at 4 under. . . . John Daly’s back-and-forth week finished with an even-par round of 70 to end his tournament T-32 at 7 under for his best paycheck since the 2012 season. . . . Jason Dufner on Sunday failed to break par for the first time this week, an even 70 leaving him T-29 at 8 under.
– Golfweek.com staff and Associated Press contributed