Walker eyes unique hat-trick of titles at Waialae

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 13, 2016 5:03 PM

(Reuters) - Fresh from a tie for 10th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Sunday, Jimmy Walker sets his sights on something "cool" at this week's Sony Open in Honolulu where he will bid for an unprecedented third win in a row.

American Walker cruised to a tournament-record nine-shot victory at Waialae Country Club last year and is now looking to become the first player to land a hat-trick of titles on the PGA Tour since Steve Stricker clinched the 2011 John Deere Classic.

Though three players apart from Walker (Herbert Green, Corey Pavin and Ernie Els) have won the Sony Open in consecutive years since the event was first held in 1965, none of them managed to add a third.

"Oh, it's cool," Walker, 36, told reporters while preparing for Thursday's opening round on the tight, tree-lined layout at Waialae on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. "I'm excited.

"I've never experienced anything like I'll experience (at Waialae), winning two in a row and trying to make it three.

"I've got a lot of good memories coming from there and we're excited to get back."

Walker recorded his first top-10 finish of the season in last week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Kapalua Resort where the par-73 Plantation Course is the hilliest venue on the PGA Tour with expansive fairways.

This week, he will have to contend with a very different challenge on the classic par-70 layout at Waialae -- which is flat, tight and fringed with palm trees -- but he has never had a problem in making that transition.

"It's just been a matter of solid putting and quality iron play (at Waialae), said Walker, a five-times winner on the PGA Tour.

"I know I've driven it well here the last couple years, and it's a tough place to drive the golf ball because it's so narrow and firm.

"I've managed to get it in the fairways and hit quality shots and probably played the par-fives pretty well ... those are some of the keys, real good putting, too."

Walker will tee off in Thursday's opening round of the $5.8 million Sony Open in high-profile company, having been grouped with 2088 winner K.J. Choi of South Korea and reigning British Open champion Zach Johnson.

Also competing at Waialae this week is former world number one Adam Scott of Australia, who is currently ranked 11th, along with seven other members of the top 30.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)