HONOLULU (AP) — New year. Old season.
Even with the PGA Tour going to a wraparound season that began in October, it was somewhat startling to see that Jimmy Walker already has accumulated a healthy lead in the FedEx Cup and was No. 1 in the Ryder Cup standings. And it's still in January.
How he got there was no accident.
Three months after he won the 2013-14 season opener at the Frys.com Open, Walker emerged from a tight race Sunday on the back nine of Waialae Country Club with one big par and three straight birdies. He closed with a 7-under 63 and won the Sony Open by one shot over Chris Kirk.
"I've always felt like I belonged, and you need affirmation every now and then," he said. "The other win was like, 'Yeah, OK, I can do it.' I did it, and I was supposed to be able to do it. Everybody told me I was supposed to do it, and I finally did it. And then it's, 'Well, are you going to be the guy that won that you never hear from again?' It's nice to get it done and do it again today."
There was a five-way tie for the lead as the final groups were making the turn. There were four players still in the thick of contention with an hour to go. Kirk made his move too late, finishing birdie-birdie for a 66. He missed a 30-foot chip for eagle from short of the green on the par-5 18th that would have forced a playoff.
Harris English had the lead with four holes to play until he failed to save par from a bunker on the 15th, and then missed three birdie chances the rest of the way, two of them from inside 10 feet. He closed with a 67 and finished three shots back.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that those three players had the best shot at winning. They all won tournaments last fall when the wraparound season began — Walker at the Frys.com Open, Kirk at the McGladrey Classic, English at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico.
No matter what the calendar says, it feels as though nothing has changed.
"Guys get into grooves and they've all been playing really well," Walker said. "I think it's cool. Everybody makes a big deal about being No. 1 on the FedEx and stuff, and it is cool and it is a big deal. ... I know it's January. It's a long way to September, and every little bit helps."
Every putt helped on this wild day along the shores down from Waikiki Beach.
Walker had the right recipe when he began the final round two shots out of the lead. He had made eight bogeys during a tame week at Waialae, and he felt they were holding him back. He figured if he could keep bogeys off his card, he had enough good shots in his bag to give himself a reasonable chance.