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US PGA champion Jimmy Walker has major plans to help USA to Ryder Cup success

By Phil Casey

Published 02/08/2016

Happy family: Jimmy Walker and wife Erin with the Wanamaker Trophy after the American's success in the US PGA at Baltusrol
Happy family: Jimmy Walker and wife Erin with the Wanamaker Trophy after the American's success in the US PGA at Baltusrol

Newly crowned US PGA champion Jimmy Walker is looking forward to making his second Ryder Cup appearance next month as the United States seek to end an embarrassing run of results in the competition.

Walker was one of the standout performers on his debut at Gleneagles in 2014, halving three of his four matches with Rickie Fowler and beating Lee Westwood in the singles.

That was not enough to prevent Europe making it six wins out of the last seven, however, and Ulsterman Darren Clarke's side will travel to Hazeltine chasing an unprecedented fourth straight victory.

Both sides could boast two major champions - Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson for Europe, Walker and Dustin Johnson for the United States - following Walker's dramatic triumph at Baltusrol, where he held his nerve to par the last after an eagle on the same hole minutes earlier from defending champion Jason Day had piled on the pressure.

The win lifted Walker from 48th in the world, the lowest ranking of any major winner since number 108 Keegan Bradley won the 2011 US PGA, to 15th in the updated standings.

And it also moved the 37-year-old from 29th on the Ryder Cup list to fourth, just four weeks before the eight automatic qualifiers will be decided.

"I'm looking forward to it," Walker said. "It would be great to get back on the team. I remember when I left (Gleneagles) I did an interview and said I never want to miss another one again.

"I thought about that all year. 'I haven't played as well as I would have liked to... I'm not on the list... I'm not even close'.

"I saw Davis (Love, US captain) this week and I told him 'Man, I'd love to be on your team'.

"The emotions you run through at these team events are huge and I felt like I learned a lot about myself that week at the Ryder Cup. It was crazy.

"I look forward to hopefully having a chance to do it here on our home turf this year."

Walker's victory also meant all four majors were won by first-time winners for the first time since 2011, when Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Bradley claimed the game's biggest prizes.

"I think it shows that everybody out here playing is really good and everybody's got a chance to win," Walker added.

"Henrik, he's been around forever, FedEx Cup champion, won a lot of golf tournaments, great player. Dustin, I mean, he's a great player. Hits it a freaking mile. Everybody expects good things from guys like that.

"For me, it was a matter of time for me, that's what I felt about myself, and winning something like this sure makes me look forward to more."

Walker will have to wait until the Masters next April before he can try to win another major, but at least he can now celebrate a first with coach Butch Harmon.

Harmon famously refused to accept any payment for their first few lessons in 2013, so Walker gave him a bottle of Chateau Margaux worth £900 as a thank-you present. Harmon never opened it, preferring to wait until the day Walker won a major.

"I've been saving it for a special occasion," Harmon said. "And this is a special occasion."

Belfast Telegraph

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