PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Just six months ago, Jimmy Walker commanded very little attention from the average PGA Tour fan as he toiled away almost anonymously as a journeyman on the highly competitive U.S. circuit.
Fast forward to this week’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, and the long-hitting American is generating plenty of buzz, both inside and outside the ropes, as he bids for a fourth victory in the new ‘wraparound’ 2013-14 season.
“I can feel it, I can hear it,” Walker told reporters after recording birdies on his last three holes for a four-under-par 67 to sit just one stroke off the lead in Thursday’s unfinished opening round.
“It’s different. It just is. It’s really fun to have everybody watch last week and say, ‘Good job’ and ‘Way to win’ and ‘Keep it going.’ It’s fun.”
Walker had made 187 career starts on the PGA Tour without success before finally clinching his maiden victory at the season-opening Frys.com Open in October.
He has since added further wins at the Sony Open in January and at last week’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he triumphed by one shot.
Not since 2008, when Tiger Woods clinched his first three events, has a player made such a fast winning start to a PGA Tour season. In 1974, Johnny Miller recorded four wins in his first eight tournaments.
Walker is the fourth player since 1995 to win three events in eight or fewer starts to begin a PGA Tour season, emulating the previous achievements of David Duval, Phil Mickelson and Woods, who did so a remarkable eight times.
Asked to explain what it felt like to have posted three wins in such a short period of time, Walker replied: ”I don’t know, I think I‘m still processing it all.
”I’ve never done this right here, stood in the room like this and talked and answered questions like this. It’s always kind of been sitting down in the media room and stuff.
“But this is where you want to be and this is why you want to play and play good, to answer questions I think.”
Walker was talking to a group of reporters in a confined area in the clubhouse at Riviera Country Club, having signed his scorecard in an adjacent room moments earlier.
Previously, he had spoken to golf writers only in the official interview rooms which are set up in the media centers at PGA Tour events.
So far, however, Walker has embraced the heightened media interest in his golfing career.
”You have to enjoy it,“ the 35-year-old Oklahoma native said. ”It’s why you play. It’s part of the deal.
“I don’t know what it’s like for some of those guys that are winning 40 times and they have done this a ton... but right now, I enjoy it. It’s fun, it’s a good place to be.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by John O'Brien