Winning on the PGA Tour takes time, just ask anyone who has ever collected a million dollar check on Sunday.
Jimmy Walker won the first event of the 2013-2014 season for his first win on the PGA Tour. Walker was winless in his previous 187 career starts, but beginning in 2009 he became a regular on Tour by earning enough money to keep his card. In 2011, he eclipsed the million-dollar mark in a season for the first time, and in 2013 he eclipsed the two million dollar mark. Walker was having a lucrative career with zero wins to his name.
In October 2013, Walker won the Frys.com firing a 62-66 on the weekend. 23-year-old Brooks Koepka led by two strokes heading into the final round, but faltered with a one-over 72 on Sunday, and ran into Walker’s weekend buzz saw. That is how it works on the PGA Tour, you never know who is going to grab the lead on Sunday.
A couple weeks later at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Webb Simpson won by six shots over Jason Bohn and Ryo Ishikawa for his fourth career victory. Bohn is an 11-year PGA Tour veteran who has won twice, and Ishikawa has eight top 10s in 82 careers starts. Ishikawa is beginning to show promise, and is miles ahead of most 22-year-old players, but he doesn’t warrant much attention from the media because he is winless.
In February, Jimmy Walker claimed his third victory in eight events at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Nobody understood why Walker was having so much success, but then 23-year-old Patrick Reed won his third event in 14 starts at the WGC-Cadillac Championship to become the next best thing in golf. Reed and Walker are now firmly on the radar screen, and no one would have guessed their meteoric rise.
So far this season, no one has been on the type of roller coaster enjoyed by Matt Kuchar. At the Valero Texas Open, Kuchar shot a 75 on Sunday to lose by two strokes to first-time winner Steven Bowditch. The 30-mph wind conditions were extremely difficult, but he still had a great chance to win. At the Shell Houston Open a week later, Kuchar bogeyed the final hole to fall back into a playoff with Matt Jones. Once again, the rainy conditions made things difficult, and Jones chipped in for birdie on the first playoff hole to win his first event in 156 career starts. At the Masters, Kuchar birdied holes two and three on Sunday to find himself tied for the lead with Jordan Spieth, but he fell out of contention with a double-bogey on four and a bogey on nine.
Finally, at the RBC Heritage, Kuchar opened with an impressive 66 to tie William McGirt and Scott Langley for the first round lead. By Sunday, Kuchar was four strokes behind former world No. 1 Luke Donald who hasn’t won since 2012. In the final round, Donald shot a two-under 69 in windy conditions, but Kuchar shot a seven-under 64 with a chip-in from the bunker on 18 to win by one-stroke.
It is also important to consider John Senden’s first win since 2006 at the Valspar Championship, Bubba Watson overcoming a winless 2013 to claim the Northern Trust Open in February and the Masters in April, Bowditch winning the Valero Texas Open for his first win in 110 career starts, Rory McIlroy barely missing an eagle putt on the 72nd hole at the Honda Classic for his first win since September 2012, and then losing in a playoff to Russell Henley who now has two wins in two seasons on the PGA Tour.
It is extremely difficult to win on the PGA Tour. On rare occasions, guys get hot and blow a field away like Webb Simpson or win three events in eight starts like Jimmy Walker. However, there are many more close calls. The better players limit the near misses, but almost winning is simply a part of the game.