SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Give him this: Jason Day made it interesting.
The defending champion and No. 1 player in the world drained a 14-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th hole, but it was too little, too late. Jimmy Walker made par on the finisher some 10 minutes later to shoot a final-round 67, edge Day by one and claim his first major title at the PGA Championship at soggy Baltusrol on Sunday night.
“One guy this week was better than me,” said Day, who shot a pair of 67s on the marathon final day of the weather-delayed tournament. “I felt good about how everything was going, even with the limited preparation going into this week, only playing one practice round, and seeing the course for the first time on Wednesday.
“It might have been a blessing in disguise, really,” he added, alluding to the hot weather and start-and-stop nature of the event, which was draining for many players.
Chronologically, Day finished T10, T8, T22 and second in the four majors in 2016. He also won the Players Championship in May, plus two other Tour events.
“Jason, when he holes out for eagle on the last hole, doesn’t give me a whole lot of time to soak it in,” Walker said. “It was still game time.”
Day sat in the scoring area with son Dash on his knee as he watched Walker pitch up and lag his first putt to within three feet of the hole on 18. The runner-up got up then, taking his son by the hand as his wife, Ellie, and their daughter, Lucy, followed close behind. Jason and Jimmy are “bus buddies,” which is to say they both travel the Tour in RVs, and Day embraced Walker and Walker’s wife on the back of the 18th green.
“We text each other all the time about him getting a new bus, and I’m showing him mine,” Day said. “We’re just talking about buses all the time. We’re always parked right next to each other, hanging out. All the major championships, we see each other all the time. So you know, obviously he’s a top bloke.”
“I see Jason more than anybody, because we literally are staying in the same spot every week,” said Walker, who praised Day’s sportsmanship. “And it’s been great to see what he’s done with golf and his game. You guys have watched it. It’s incredible.”
Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth also stuck around to congratulate the winner.
The PGA marked Walker’s fifth official Tour win, and he becomes the fifth straight first-time major winner dating back to Day’s victory at the 2015 PGA at Whistling Straits. Meanwhile 10-time Tour winner Day notched his fourth runner-up finish in the majors. As with Phil Mickelson’s second-place finish at the British Open two weeks ago, there was no single missed opportunity that haunted the runner-up.
He said he misread his birdie try from 13 feet, six inches on the 17th hole, which never had a chance, and admitted he didn’t hit enough fairways and accurate approach shots midway through the back nine. Otherwise, he could only lament that because of the weather delay players were not re-paired between the third and fourth rounds.
Day played the fourth round with Argentinian Emiliano Grillo (68, 6 under, T13), one tee time ahead of Walker and Robert Streb (69, 8 under, T7). “It would have been nice to be able to play in the last group with him,” Day said. “Just to be able to go back and forth with him, maybe put a little bit more pressure on, because usually that [turns] into a match-play format, like where you’re going back and forth. More mistakes or crucial moments can happen in situations like that.”
The Barclays at Bethpage Black, which kicks off the FedEx Cup playoffs, begins Aug. 25. Day plans to be there.