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.”