And we’re off. The first tournament of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season is in the books, and with it we have the first first-time winner of the season: 34-year-old Jimmy Walker. He used a final-round 5-under-par 66 to top veteran Vijay Singh by two strokes, and four others by three shots at the Frys.com Open in San Martin, Calif.
Here are five interesting notes from the weekend:
1) With the victory, Walker collected a $900,000 check, the largest of his career. His 66 on Sunday came on the heels of his 62 on Saturday, which put him three shots behind the lead. After eight years and 188 PGA Tour events, Walker will move inside the world’s top 50 for the first time and get his first invite to the Masters. Whereas previous years’ fall events counted only for money, the PGA Tour moved to a wrap-around schedule, making the tournaments that close out one calendar year count toward the FedExCup of the next year. That distinction means the victors of these autumn events get Masters berths.
2) Brooks Koepka was the man holding the 54-hole lead, but the 23-year-old gave it up with four bogeys in his final 10 holes, the most crushing of which came at 16 and 17. Playing on a sponsor’s exemption in his first non-major PGA Tour event, Koepka was 15-under through three rounds (67-64-67) but then struggled to a final-round 72. Nonetheless, the three-time All-American from Florida State earned $240,000 for his T-3 performance and another PGA start, next week at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.
3) Fifty-year-old Vijay Singh, a Hall of Famer, shot four straight rounds under 70 on the PGA Tour for the first time since January, and it earned him a second-place finish that comes with $540,000. That’s more money than he earned in 19 events last season (January to August), when the Big Fijian collected only $309,000. The Frys.com Open was Singh’s first event since debuting last month on the Champions Tour (which is for players 50 years and older).
4) Only two golfers in the Frys.com field competed in last month’s Tour Championship, which takes the FedExCup standings’ top 30: Gary Woodland and Billy Horschel. Naturally, those two men were favored to fare well in San Martin. Neither made the cut. Woodland shot 71-75; Horschel 74-69.
5) Of the three players who competed in last week’s Presidents Cup – which is comprised of the 12 best American golfers against the 12 best golfers from every other continent except Europe – only one made the cut at the Frys.com: 21-year-old Hideki Matsuyama. The Japanese youngster is competing on the PGA Tour for the first time, and was one of four guys who tied for third at 14-under. His two Presidents Cup teammates that were present, Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman, shot 75-72 and 73-70, respectively.