SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (AP) — The stars never aligned this magnificently for Jimmy Walker.
In the longest final day at the PGA Championship in 64 years, Walker produced three big birdies on the back nine at Baltusrol and held his nerve against the No. 1 player in the world to close with a 3-under 67 for a one-shot victory over defending champion Jason Day.
Walker provided a little too much drama at the end.
After watching Day make a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th to close the gap to one shot, Walker went for the green when a par would win it. He missed to the right in deep rough, safely pitched on some 35 feet away and had to hole a 3-foot putt for the victory.
There was never a doubt, and the 37-year-old calmly pumped his fist twice.
“Sometimes, things just don’t come easy,” Walker said after hoisting the 37-pound Wanamaker Trophy, amazing that he had any strength left after a 36-hole final day brought on my rain over the weekend. “He really put it on me to make a par. Sometimes pars are hard. But we got it.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It was a battle all day.”
It was a battle for everyone. In a most peculiar final day at a major, the PGA Championship allowed for preferred lies because of nearly 4 inches of rain during the week that drenched the Lower Course. Desperate to beat the clock, they sent the third-round pairings right back out for the final round, meaning Walker was playing the third round as others were playing the final round.
But it ended on a happy note for Walker. He is a major champion, completing a sweep of first-time winners in the majors this year.
Better yet: It moves him into position to secure a spot on the Ryder Cup team.
Walker is a late bloomer who has received as much attention in recent years for his astrophotography, with some of his work recognized by NASA. He needed a performance that was out of this world in a wet and wild Sunday, and he delivered every step of the way.
He played the final 28 holes without a bogey. He began the back nine by holing a 45-foot bunker shot on No. 10 and making a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 11.
British Open champion Henrik Stenson, trying to join Ben Hogan as the only players to win back-to-back majors at age 40, finally faded away with a double bogey on the 15th hole. So did Brooks Koepka earlier on the back nine.
Day stuck around, determined to be like his buddy Tiger Woods and win back-to-back at the PGA Championship. And he almost did, drilling a 3-wood from 258 yards up the hill to 15 feet for an eagle and a 67.
The Australian flipped his club in despair as he neared the green, seeing the leaderboard and realizing that cheer behind him was Walker answering with a birdie on 17.