When it comes to knowing the keys to success at Waialae Country Club, home of the Sony Open in Hawaii, not many of this week’s participants can provide more insight than defending champion and Titleist Brand Ambassador Jimmy Walker.

Last year, Jimmy fired a bogey-free 7-under-par 63 in his final round to cap off a 17-under-par 263 victory total - marking the second of his three wins last season. And to put an exclamation point on the win, Walker mounted a closing charge that featured four birdies over the final five holes to secure the title. 

Even though he is one of the longest drivers on the PGA TOUR, Walker placed putting and proximity to hole as his top keys for success at this event when Team Titleist caught up with him in Honolulu.

“My strategy on this course has always been to hit the ball as far as I can down the fairway to give me the best chance of getting my approach shot as close to the hole as possible,” said Walker. “The player who is among the best in putting for the week will be in the hunt on Sunday, and having more short putts will help accomplish that.”

Walker, who has played this event every year since 2008, has shot in the 60’s in 17 of his last 19 rounds, including each of the last nine. In addition to his win last year, he finished solo 4th in 2011. Walker is coming off a 2nd place finish at last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

“The Plantation Course had wide fairways, a lot of undulation, and shifting winds,” said Walker, who has no intention of changing his game plan despite the tighter layout and doglegs. “It sounds cliché, but I really do just take it one shot at a time. For me, that means having the confidence to hit driver as accurately and as far as I can off the tee, so I have the shortest club hitting the ball into the green. That gives me the best chance to get close to the hole and make more birdies. I putted well in the win last year and I felt I putted well last week, so I am looking forward to contending once again.”

EQUIPMENT NOTES AND QUOTES FROM JIMMY WALKER

 FOUR ROUNDS, FOUR GOLF BALLS:  Jimmy Walker played a new Titleist Pro V1x prototype golf ball in competition for the first time at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, finishing 2nd. When asked if he played the golf ball all four rounds after switching from the previous generation Pro V1, Walker said: “Not only did I play it all four rounds, I only played four balls. One each day. I loved the performance. It has the perfect ball flight that I am seeking – nice and tight off the driver, fairways and long irons and very controllable off the wedges. In fact, I put some new Vokey Design SM5 wedges in the bag last week, and I kept looking at my ball to see if it needed to be switched out, but it never did. The ball has great feel and is extremely durable. The best I’ve ever played.”

WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN:  Like many other Scotty Cameron putter enthusiasts, Jimmy Walker had one of his favorite putters restored to its original state with a twist, and it is now back in the bag as his gamer. In October, Walker sent an 11-year old Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS putter that he won twice with and topped the money list on the 2004 Nationwide Tour, to the Scotty Cameron Custom Shop to be refurbished. In addition to having it restored and refurbished to its original condition, he had tungsten added to the sole to give the putter some additional weight.

“I had won a couple of times with the putter in 2004, but switched to a little heavier putter as my stroke changed over the years and kind of put that one away for a while. I’ve always loved the look of it and asked (Cameron Putter Rep) Kelley Moser to see what could be done to restore it, but also get it to a similar weight to the Scotty I was currently using. I got it back last month and put it back in the bag as soon as I saw it. I have total confidence in it and don’t foresee taking it out any time soon.”

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As we continue our Team Titleist Member Spotlight series, we catch up with Chris Hatem. Chris is a collegiate golfer who learned the game from his dad, appreciates the versatility of his 52 degree Vokey and takes pride in playing his best golf when the pressure is on. 

Check out the entire interview below to learn more about Chris Hatem.

Team Titleist (TT): How did you get started in golf? Who introduced you to the game?

Chris Hatem. (CH): I was introduced to golf at the age of 6 by my father who told me that it is a sport that we can play together forever. The first thing that my father taught me was golf etiquette as he took it very seriously (as most do). Then we discovered that I was left-handed and he was right-handed so we could face each other and I could mirror his swings; this helped me with the basic fundamentals. I grew up working as a cart boy at a local course then moved on to instructing junior clinics and also working on the maintenance team at Portsmouth CC in Greenland NH.  I got a great education of golf course etiquette and turf management while working during the summers between semesters. In addition, I played for my high school and college teams where I had a great support structure of team members, coaches, family, and friends. 

 TT: How do you mark your Titleist?

CH: I mark my Titleist Pro V1X by “dotting the i’s to make it see.”  I use a red sharpie which is one of my college’s (Boston University, go Terriers!) team colors. The dotting of the i’s goes back to my high school days where we got rid of i’s because there is no “I” in “team.”  I usually use 1’s, 2’s , 3’s, and 7’s; absolutely no 4’s, as those are for a freshman.


TT: What's your favorite Titleist club in the bag?

CH: My favorite club in the bag definitely goes to my SM5 52° 08 F-Grind. It seems to be able to read my mind and perform accordingly. It’s my go-to for an array of different shots as it has versatility.   

TT: How often are you thinking about your golf game and getting better? What are you currently working on? 

CH: I think about getting to the course and practicing/playing whenever I can. I don’t usually have a plan until I get to the course. Then, based on where I can go and drop 50 balls, I figure out what the plan of the day is. Lately, I have been working on trajectory with my wedges, if the pin is back, no need to hit a flyer/spinner to the back edge, bounce it back there and stop it then let it release a little. Basically, I have been working on getting my hands in front of the ball without stopping my turn and hips from firing through the ball even on a wedge shot. I have also been working on increasing my angle of attack for the driver so that I am hitting up on the ball producing more of what my buddy and I call the “Low-Spin Monster.”

TT: Can you recall the best golf shot you ever hit?

CH: The best shot I have ever hit was one in which I proved to myself that I can withstand the first tee pressure. It was the New England D1 College Golf Championships and it was being played at Newport National in Rhode Island. The first hole is a dogleg left par 5 with a hazard between the tee and the fairway and also one left. I was pretty nervous as golfers are on the first tee, not to mention I was playing with a couple golfers that had attracted a decent size (5-10 people and my family, for college that is exceptional) gallery. My coach patted me on the back and I hit one down the middle. I looked back and I was more happy about the whole situation being over rather than where my ball ended up.

TT: What's the best piece of golf advice you ever received?

CH: The most important piece of golf advice ever given to me was from my coach, Bruce Chalas. We took a spring break trip to Pinehurst, to have some fun and work on our games. I was struggling with my driver on the range, and was about to tee off to go play number 2, so he wrote “TEMPO” on a small piece of paper and told me to just put it in my pocket and forget about it. I had known that he has done this with some of my teammates but never to me.  Having that single swing thought made me focus and made me into a better golfer.   

   

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Some of the best players in the world are looking to claim victory at the first official event of the New Year, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The winners only, limited field event will be contested on the beautiful Plantation course at Kapalua Resort, a place known for it's scenic views and low scores.

The 34 players in the field will be looking to get off to a fast start in 2015, setting them up for a successful season much like defending champion and Titleist Brand Ambassador Zach Johnson did last year. Zach used his victory to kick start a 2014 campaign that included 11 Top-25 finishes in 26 starts earning him a trip to Atlanta for the Tour Championship. The win was certainly a highlight of Zach's impressive season.

“My best moment of the year was the Hyundai Tournament of Champions...it was special, especially with my family there," said Johnson.

2014 FedExCup Champion and Titleist Pro V1x Loyalist Billy Horschel also appreciates the chance to play in this prestigious event.

"Every tour player wants to win so they have the chance to come here. There's no place more beautiful than Maui to start the year," said Horschel.

With beautiful views and low scores abound, 2015 is sure to get of to an exciting start.

#TeamTitleist

BY THE NUMBERS: 2015 HYUNDAI TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS

 This week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Titleist is the top golf ball choice with 21 players in the limited field of 34 trusting a Pro V1 or Pro V1x golf ball for their success. 

Titleist was also the top choice in the driver (11), hybrid (7), iron (11) and approach, sand and lob wedge (28) categories.




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