Walker feels right at home in West Virginia
The tournament's most familiar names - Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson and colorful John Daly - missed the cut. The announcement that Tiger Woods would return to competition in next week's World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational took center stage within the golf world. There were relative no-names at the top of the Classic leader board. Heck, there were even predictions of a thunderstorm.
Then a bit of lightning struck.
Recognizable Anthony Kim, a past PGA Tour winner, zoomed to the top of the leader board. Hotshot 25-year-old Webb Simpson, ninth among FedExCup leaders, climbed.
The electricity, however, came courtesy of a man just about ready to move from his home in Boerne, Texas, to the Mountain State.
He's a man who shot a bogey-free, career-low 62 in what many were calling the "benign conditions" at the Old White TPC course. A man whose name evokes memories of "Good Times" and who on Saturday had a dy-no-mite round of 8 under: Jimmy Walker.
In 2007, he won a Nationwide tournament at Bridgeport's Pete Dye course. Last year, he placed fourth in The Greenbrier Classic. Now, he's gunning for the title.
And here's a little something to watch: Last year, winner Stuart Appleby started the third round eight strokes back before moving into contention. Same with Walker this year.
Why is it West Virginia and Walker make such a fine couple?
"I don't know," Walker said with a smile. "We need to have more tournaments here, I guess. I won that Nationwide Tour event in 2007. I remember playing that golf course and thinking it was hard the year before and two years before. I didn't play real well there. And then I got back, played solid and won.
"Then, last year, I came here and just enjoyed the golf course. I enjoyed the place, enjoyed The Greenbrier. It's kind of fun dressing up at night, going to dinner, putting a coat on and gambling. Everybody down there [in the casino] is all nice and dressed up. It's a nice, nice place. I've had fun."
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Oklahoma City resident has never finished better than third place in his PGA Tour career. That came in the 2010 Valero Texas Open. He's a scrambler. A decent driver in regard to distance, but not so much in regard to accuracy.
When he's within our craggy state lines, however, all is good. In many ways.
"I couldn't wait for my wife to get here," Walker said. "She missed last year's [tournament here] because of our baby. She came by herself this week, so we've been having fun."
Walker, it might be noted, met his wife Erin in 2004 at a Nationwide Tour event where she was a volunteer. But while he might be having fun with the wife, he received some very useful advice from someone he's known all his life: his father.
"I got a good tip from my dad on putting [Friday] night," Walker said. "I thought it was a good tip. I kind of put it into play this morning, rolled some good putts on the [practice] putting green and made a few today.
"I've been hitting my irons really well. The missing key is off the tee. I drove it really well today and kept giving myself chances from the fairway. The greens have been so firm and I missed a bunch of fairways [Friday]. Coming out of the rough, the ball would just hit and take off."
Not Saturday. He felt the greens were softer, more receptive. But back to Dad. If you don't believe this is a thinking man's game ...
"My dad said he saw something on TV," Walker said. "I wasn't setting my left side as he thought I was on the West Coast this year when I was putting really well and playing well. So I kind of thought about it and talked to my caddie about it this morning.
"My coach gave us a good tip about really talking out putts. He thinks I do better when I talk about where it's going. So we talked about a lot of the stuff today. I putted well. I made a lot of good putts. The stroke has felt like it's been there. I just haven't been making anything. I don't think I was rolling it any differently today than I have been the last couple of weeks."
He's just feeling the groove in the Greenbrier County valley.
"It feels good," Walker said. "I could feel it kind of coming. Today I kept giving myself chances. My caddie kept saying, 'Just stay patient. We'll get a few to drop.' A couple started to drop and they just kept kind of falling."
Kim later equaled Walker's day's best round of 8 under. At 10 under overall, Kim looks like the man to beat heading into today's final round. The 33-year-old Walker, however, is just three strokes back and ready to roll - thanks, in part, to his dad. It's the other part of his game he'll concentrate on.
"The key for me is I'm hitting my irons good," Walker said. "If I'm in the fairway, I'll be able to be aggressive. If you're not in the fairway, it's hard to be aggressive. They're going to tuck the pins and make the golf course a lot harder [today], I think.
"I'll need to be in the fairway to have a good run. I did what I could today."
Now it's time to try and imitate Appleby's run of last year.
"Let's go make the best of it," Walker said. "I told my wife [Friday] night that I'm going to go out and attack and see what happens. It worked."
The good times certainly did roll.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.