ATLANTA (Reuters) - Making the United States Ryder Cup for the first time had long been a goal for Jimmy Walker, though it was a fairly remote one as he toiled away almost anonymously as a journeyman on the highly competitive PGA Tour.
But that changed in the proverbial blink of an eye after the American made a stunning start to the 2013-14 season, winning three times in eight events to rocket up the U.S. Cup standings.
Though he has not triumphed since his victory at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February, Walker performed well in the majors and comfortably qualified for Tom Watson’s team to take on holders Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland later this month.
”It’s always been a goal of mine, to compete in the Ryder Cup,“ Walker, 35, told Reuters at the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship. ”You have long-terms goals and you have things you want to do.
“That was obviously one of them. It’s like making the Olympic team. Those are goals that you have to put out there for yourself. I‘m really excited to go over (to Scotland).”
In his wildest dreams, though, Walker would never have banked on claiming three victories early on in the season to effectively ink in his spot on the 12-man U.S. team.
”You win that first one, and then you win the Sony (Open),“ smiled Walker. ”And then you win the next one (the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am), and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is getting to be a very possible thing’.
“Three (wins) in eight (events), that’s hard to do. But you still have to think positive, you have to think that the wins are right there. I still feel that way, even though it (winning) hasn’t happened in a while.”
Walker became only the fourth player since 1995 to win three events in eight or fewer starts to begin a PGA Tour season, emulating the previous achievements of David Duval, Phil Mickelson and Woods, who did so an incredible eight times.
What made his feat even more remarkable is that Walker went 187 career starts on the PGA Tour without success before finally clinching his maiden victory at the season-opening Frys.com Open in October.
Asked what had finally clicked for him to break into the winner’s circle, Walker replied: ”It’s hard to say. It was a lot of experience, a lot more knowledge of how to play golf, a new coach, working on new stuff, just more confidence.
“It was just a matter of a few things that led to a couple of big things.”
In addition to his three wins on the 2013-14 PGA Tour, Walker has taken great satisfaction from his overall consistency as well as his strong performances in golf’s elite tournaments.
“I’ve been playing good,” said the Oklahoma native who now resides in Texas. “I’ve had a lot of really good finishes in big events this year, three top-10s in the majors, a top-10 at The Players. The golf game feels good.”
Walker, who tied for eighth at the Masters, shared ninth place at the U.S. Open and finished joint seventh at the PGA Championship, has had little time to think about the Ryder Cup over the past four weeks.
”We’ve all been concentrating on the FedExCup playoffs, and this week’s season-ending event,“ he said. ”But I’ve already talked to a couple guys and they say that win or lose, the Ryder Cup is one of the best weeks in our profession.
“It’s going to be a special week and I‘m excited about it.”
Asked how much he felt the Americans would be motivated at Gleneagles by their stunning loss in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, Walker replied: ”It will work for the guys that were there, I think.
“Losing the Ryder Cup is something you don’t want to experience and that was the sentiment expressed at a team dinner we had the other night.”
Two years ago in what became known as the ‘Meltdown at Medinah’, the U.S. threw away a commanding four-point lead over Europe heading into the last-day singles to lose by 14-1/2 points to 13-1/2.
“That’s not something that they want to repeat or experience again,” said Walker. “So we want to go over there and take the cup home.”
Editing by Larry Fine