Jimmy Walker quietly withdrew from the PGA Tour in April, not sure whether it was the lingering effects of Lyme disease or growing frustration — possibly both — that led to made this decision. All he knew was that he needed to leave for the rest of the year, maybe two years, maybe longer.
Then LIV Golf appeared.
The Saudi tycoons wouldn’t land on their doorstep in San Antonio without him, and Walker wasn’t sure he would be interested. “History is strong, and it’s not yet,” he said.
Walker watched, not begrudge anyone who chose to go to the rival league. He didn’t realize that for every player who signed up for LIV Golf — suspended or resigned from the PGA Tour — it would only help him.
Labor Day call surprises him
Cameron Smith and Mark Leishman are latest departures, leaving Walker on PGA Tour ‘s career earnings rose nine places to 50th. That gives him a one-time waiver for the new season that starts Thursday.
Walker is happy behind the grill at home, on the lawn mower, going to the gym or chasing his two boys. He still plays golf with friends, that impromptu swing style. It’s interesting.
“I’ve been doing this professional sports for 20 years,” he said. “I just need time not to do the damn thing.”
Walker also knows that if he doesn’t take this opportunity, he won’t have it next year.
“I have no plans to play and I don’t know when I’ll be able to play again. I’m probably done,” Walker said. “Is this fate? I don’t know.”
Leave it to the children.
Walker thinks he could have retired and be content with the career Grand Slam title and two Ryder Cup teams that brought him. He is 43 years old and still feels he can do more. So he asked his sons, McLean, 12, and Beckett, 9, if they wanted him to hit the road again.
“The youngest Beckett said to me: ‘Can you be great again? If you think you can do it, I want you to go. It was a tear-jerking moment,'” Walker said .
Beckett was just 3 years old when he held Beckett in his arms on the 18th green in Baltusroll after his one-shot victory at the 2016 PGA Championship. Can he create another moment like this? He thought it was worth a shot, especially when the decision was made for him.
Walker is an example of how LIV Golf offers a path that players don’t look forward to.
Another former PGA champion, Jason Dufner, made his card in the top 50 for career money. Rory Sabbatini is in the top 25 for career money with a LIV suspension.
That’s why Walker took a commercial flight Monday from San Antonio to Oakland, Calif., then drove a short distance — no courtesy car this week — to Napa for the Fortinet Championship and started He’s not planning to play this season.
He was so determined to break free from golf that Walker stayed home instead of playing in the PGA Championship in South Hills. e made his debut at the 2001 US Open. That would be a complete cycle. He prefers full stops.
“I’ve had a great career,” he said. “I can hang my hat on it.”
Walker played 178 games on the PGA Tour, culminating in a 2013 win over Brooks Koepka at Cordwall the season opener. His European travel card that year. Koepka was one of the players who signed with LIV and moved Walker up the career earning list.
Walker still holds the 2015 Sony Open record of nine wins. He peaked a year later, when he won his only major and played for a second straight Ryder Cup team, this time with a victory for the United States at Hazeltine.
A hunting trip to King Ranch that fall was where he suspected he had Lyme disease, although it took him a few days before he was diagnosed the Wednesday before the Masters Symptoms and uncertainty for months.
The harder he works, the longer the road back seems to be.
One week he feels good, the next is terrible. Medications made him sensitive to the sun. He started to struggle with chipping and putting, the hallmarks of his game. He was happy at home in San Antonio and grew increasingly grumpy on the road.
Now it feels like a fresh start. Walker has played long enough to know what the future holds.
Golf is getting younger and better. Only the top 70 players will be able to keep their cards in the new season’s massive bonus, another change brought by LIV Golf.
. “I know what it means, hard work, etc. I’m nervous. Honestly, I’m not fully prepared. But there’s no better way than to just jump back in .
“It could be amazing, it could be a disaster. “
Anyway, this was something Walker didn’t expect. He has LIV Golf to thank.
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