Jimmy Walker, who was ready to retire before this season, is showing he has plenty left at the age of 44.
Walker shot a second straight six-under-par 65 to build a three-stroke lead over second-ranked Scottie Scheffler, sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, and Justin Rose of England midway through the 55th RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
“I was 50th (in career earnings), and if I didn’t play, I’d never get it again,” said Walker, who actually was No. 59 but moved up to the final spot when nine players left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf. “I just wouldn’t. So when it happened, it was kind of like, ‘Wow, this is incredible.’ I immediately shifted gears and talked to my family and said, ‘This is it. This is what we’re going to do.’ They were totally all about it. All my friends were all about it.
“I remember going into the first tournament and thinking, ‘Should I go practice? Should I just go out and start winging it?’ We winged it, and I played pretty damn good that first week. I think I led the field in birdies. It’s like, where has this been? Then I kind of got back into the form of how I had been playing before. Yeah, it’s cool to be back. Maybe I have a chance to really do something special.
“It’s great to put two good rounds together.”
Walker, who has six PGA Tour victories but none since the 2016 PGA Championship and had his career short-circuited by several illnesses including Lyme disease, collected seven birdies in round two that included three in a row on the back nine. while recording a 36-hole score of 12-under-par 130.
Scheffler, who lost the No. 1 world ranking to Jon Rahm of Spain last week, holed out from 32 feet for an eagle on the second hole and added six birdies in his own 65, while Schauffele made a 15-foot eagle putt at No. 5 and birdied the last hole for a 66, and Rose birdied three of the first six holes to kick-start a bogey-free 67.
“There are a lot of nuances to this golf course, and I’m still kind of learning on the fly with it being my first time around this place,” said Scheffler, who has claimed his six PGA Tour victories in just a little over a year, including the 2022 Masters.
“If you’re hitting it really good, you can score anywhere, and you can hit the shots. It’s just those nuances kind of help when you’re not really playing your best. I feel like I’ve put myself in a few tough spots this week that haven’t been great. But outside of that, I’ve played a lot of really solid golf.
“It’s Friday, it’s still early in the week. I just want to keep playing solid golf.”
Said Rose, who tied for sixth in the Players Championship recently: “I think for me, winning at Pebble Beach (in February) was great for me and got me going in the right direction again. The way in which I won I was really happy with, so I proved to myself I can still clearly do it. The more and more chances I can create through the season, hopefully we can get another one and just keep that momentum going. Obviously, winning breeds confidence, and that’s what we’re all looking for out here.”
And Schauffele, who tied for 10th in the Masters and has eight top-10s this season, said: “Making a birdie on the last hole is always nice, especially to finish off a good round like that. But I just want to keep playing the way I have been.”
Fifth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA made a hole in one on the 200-yard seventh hole on his way to a 65 and is in a large tie for fifth with ninth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway, the first-round leader at 64 who had a 70; Tommy Fleetwood of England, who made eight birdies in a 65; Mark Hubbard, who birdied three of the first four holes and the last one for a 66, and Aaron Rai of England, who chipped in from 41 yards for an eagle at No. 5 in a 71.
“It was just a perfect 6-iron number, a little into the wind, high 190s to the hole,” Cantlay of his ace. “A one-yard cut that just came off perfect.”
Defending champion Jordan Spieth birdied four of his first five holes en route to a 67 and is in another big tie for 10th with Patton Kizzire, who made one bogey in a 65; Ben Griffin, who had six birdies on the front nine in another 65; Matt Kuchar, who birdied three of the first five holes in a 67; Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, who made three late birdies in another 67; Taylor Moore, who also had three birdies down the stretch in year another 67; Rickie Fowler, who had four birdies and one bogey in a 68, and Brian Harman, who made three straight birdies late in his round to salvage a 70.
Top-ranked Rahm, who opened with a 72 after winning Masters last Sunday, bounced back with a bogey-free 64 and is tied for 18th, 10th-ranked Sam Burns is tied for 46th after making two late birdies in a 70, and fifth-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal shot 73-72—145 and missed the cut for the first time in 16 tournaments by five strokes.
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