SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Jimmy Walker’s first major victory at the 98th PGA came with some stiff pressure after Jason Day’s eagle on the final hole cut Walker’s edge to 1 shot.
So which moments will be the lasting memory from 2016’s final major? Our extended panel of experts share their take on Sunday’s finish.
1. More impressive, a wire-to-wire win for Walker or sinking that putt on the 72nd hole to seal the victory?
SportsCenter anchor Matt Barrie: You can’t have the wire-to-wire victory without making the putt on the 72nd hole. Walker stood in the fairway on 18 and watched Jason Day eagle, only to hit an errant second shot and get up and down. The putt won him his first major. Wire-to-wire was the result.
SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman: A wire-to-wire win. The final putt on 18 was not that difficult. Leading after every round with all of those big names on your heels is hard to fathom, especially when you have never won a major before. I also thought that a bogey-free round was nothing short of remarkable with that kind of pressure and the amount of holes played on Sunday. He was rock solid, which was impressive.
ESPN.com senior golf analyst Michael Collins: The wire-to-wire victory. Making a three foot putt to win is stressful to watch but there’s a reason player look surprised when they miss. Cause it doesn’t happen often. Winning wire-to-wire sleeping on a lead every night is so much harder, that’s why it doesn’t happen often especially in majors.
Barrie: His shaky start on Sunday. Day would love to have the first hole back when he started with bogey. Late in his final round it appeared he made some wrong club choices that kept his birdie putts from too long a distance to score routinely, and he still had a shot. Eliminate the front 9 mistakes, and he likely repeats.
Coachman: He had two bad nines this weekend and going backward at the start of his final round really hurt. Day is so good about rebounding from early bogeys, but when you are dealing with so many solid players, even one bogey can hurt you. Look at Walker; he did not have one bogey and he won by a stroke. That’s how close these tournaments are and for Day it cost him on Sunday.
Collins: The missed birdie putt at the 17th hole. Baltusrol is known for its greens being very hard to read and Day misread that putt. It also didn’t help that his first 18 holes on Sunday, even though Day was bogey free, he only managed one birdie on the back nine.
Harig: The slow start to the fourth round ultimately doomed Day. He bogeyed two of the first three holes and was never able to recover on a day where there weren’t many birdies to be made. He hung in there, but was unable to ever catch Walker.
O’Connor: That missed birdie putt at 17. If Day makes that, and it was ultra-makeable, he forces a playoff and I believe he wins that playoff. Hard to believe Day didn’t win a major this year. I could see him winning five or six before he’s done.
Van Valkenburg: Jimmy Walker. I don’t think there is much Day could have done differently. That 2-iron he hit into the 18th green, had it forced a playoff, would have gone down as a legendary swing. With Rory McIlroy feeling lost on the greens and Jordan Spieth dealing with the added burden of expectations and fame, it’s clear Day is the most consistent player in the Big 3. Hopefully he and Dustin Johnson will create some excitement in the FedExCup.
4. Ten years from now, what will you remember most about this week at Baltusrol?
Barrie: Walker’s birdie out of the trap on 10 and Jason Day’s two iron from 280+ on the par 5 18th. Both of those were championship golf shots. And in the end, Walker capped off the 2016 major season as the 4th first time winner.
Coachman: I will remember how many big names were fighting for this title. And how the rain caused the course to become much easier. And that part is disappointing. When you have lift, clean and place rules in effect, it’s hard to have mishits and big scores. But the drama was still there. And that’s all I care about as a fan and as a viewer.
Collins: The weather bullet we dodged on Sunday. Everyone from players, caddies, and media was planning on being in NJ until Tuesday after the weather that hit Saturday and the forecast we all saw. How we got off the hook…? We’ll be talking about that for a long time.
Harig: The negativity. The crankiness. The weather. Playing just two weeks after The Open really turned into a tough deal for the PGA, which had a hard time getting its due so soon after. And then the weather issues and a diminished Baltusrol led to a marathon which will be remembered more for getting done than for who won.
O’Connor: Rain. Never in my life have I been more shocked that a golf tournament finished on a Sunday night. Still have no idea how Baltusrol and the PGA of America did it. Never mind Monday; I was clearing my schedule for Tuesday.
Van Valkenburg: Mostly the rain. It’s always disappointing when weather wreaks havoc with a major, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Brooks Koepka contending despite torn ligaments in his ankle was pretty memorable too, but other than Day’s 2-iron into 18, it seemed like we didn’t have a lot of thrills this year, just methodical excellence by Walker.