By any estimation, 2016 had been a disappointing year for Baylor alumnus and PGA Tour Professional Jimmy Walker. After rising to No. 10 in the World Golf Rankings in 2015, Walker was winless over 20 events to start the 2016 season, including a 29th-place showing at The Masters, and he missed the cut at both the U.S. Open and the Open Championship.
However, for a four-day span in late July at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., Walker turned his season around and etched his name into golf lore--as well as onto the sport's largest trophy.
Walker held off a charge from World No. 1 golfer Jason Day to win the PGA Championship, the season's fourth and final major tournament, by one stroke with a four-round cumulative total of 266--14 strokes under par.
"I felt confident," Walker said after the win. "I felt confident in myself, I felt confident in what I was doing, I felt confident in my golf swing, my putting, my chipping, and I tried to wrap myself around that and trust everything I was doing."
It was Walker’s first career major title and sixth career PGA win. He led the event wire-to-wire (he was tied for the lead after the second round), joining golfing greats Bobby Nichols (1964), Raymond Floyd (1969, 1982), Hal Sutton (1983), Nick Price (1994), Tiger Woods (2000) and Phil Mickelson (2005) as the only players in the PGA Championship's 101-year history to accomplish the feat.
Major titles rarely come easily, and this one certainly did not for Walker. Shortly after Walker teed off on the 18th hole in Sunday's final round, Day sank an eagle putt to pull within one stroke. Walker's second shot found green-side rough; he got up and down in three strokes, including a clinching three-foot putt, to save par and win the event.
An Oklahoma City native and Boerne, Texas, resident, Walker said he entered the PGA Championship feeling good about his game.
"Some things started to click the last nine holes," he said of the previous week's event. "Everything felt good. My head was there every shot. I've been kind of in limbo (this season). But last week, I saw something, and it felt good."
Walker led Baylor's men's golf team to the 2001 Big 12 Conference title. He was the 2004 leading money winner and player of the year on the Nationwide Tour before earning his PGA Tour card for the first time. Walker saw limited success over the next two seasons and returned to the Nationwide Tour in 2007 before regaining his PGA Tour card in 2008.
In late 2013, Walker claimed his first PGA title by winning the Frys.com Open, which counted toward the 2014 season. It was his first of three tour wins that season. He added two more tour victories in 2015, including a four-stroke win over fellow Texan Jordan Spieth at the Valero Open in San Antonio.
Walker's PGA Championship title made him a lock to represent the United States in the 2016 Ryder Cup. He was the second-leading U.S. point-scorer in the 2014 Ryder Cup.