SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – At a soggy PGA Championship, Jimmy Walker overcame a sluggish start and is slogging it around Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower Course better than anyone else through 54 holes.
“Just made a couple of loose swings, and finally I settled in and said, ‘Let’s hit a good shot into 6; I did, and it felt good. And I said, ‘Man, I’m swinging at it good. Let’s just keep trusting that.’ And finally after that, I started making some really quality golf swings,” said Walker, who has led wire-to-wire.
Walker, in search of his first major, birdied the 18th on Sunday morning to shoot his third straight round in the 60s, a 2-under 68, to take a one-stroke lead over Jason Day with a 54-hole total of 11-under 199.
The World No. 1 canned a 75-foot birdie putt at six, stuck a dart at the ninth, and made his first birdie all week at a par 5 at the 18th. Of the bomb that he dropped at six, Day smiled and said, “I told my caddie (Colin Swatton) walking to the green I was going to make it.”
Day signed for a round in the 60s for the 11th time in his last 12 rounds in the PGA, and is attempting to become the first player since Tiger Woods (2006-2007) to defend his Wanamaker Trophy. When asked what score he thought he’d need in the final round to win, Day hesitated before settling on 65.
“I think that would be a pretty good number,” he said. “I’d be signing my scorecard and trying to think, ‘What am I going to say?’ ”
But there are 10 players within five strokes of Walker heading into the final round, which will be played under preferred lies for the first time in major championship history.
Among the chasers are Brooks Koepka, who wasn’t even sure if he could play this week. He missed the British Open with an ankle injury, but fired a 66 – the third straight day he’s improved his score by one stroke – to pull within two strokes of the lead. Koepka, who is seeking his first major, is wearing a brace and taping his sore right ankle. How will he manage playing a second round in one day on it?
“I’ve got 18 holes to win a major. I’m pretty sure I can explode off it,” he said.
Henrik Stenson is tied with Koepka after carding a third straight 67. The British Open champ is attempting to win a second major in three weeks, and he was pleased with how Baltusrol played after another dousing of rain.
“It’s wet but I still think the course is holding up better than I thought,” he said. “Given how much rain we had yesterday, I thought it was going to be even wetter.”
The final round of the PGA began while the third round still was underway as players stayed in the same pairings. The last time players were not re-paired between rounds on the PGA Tour was at the Sanderson Farms Championship earlier this year. How did Stenson plan to spend his break between rounds?
“I might go and lay on my physio table and have a little snooze,” he said. “Please don’t wake me up.”