Jimmy Walker leads the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational by two strokes at the halfway mark
The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational could mark a turnaround in an otherwise tough season for Jimmy Walker. The six-time PGA TOUR winner has been outside the FedEx Cup top 50 just once in the last six years. Ranked just 105th heading to Firestone, Walker needs to make a big move with the Playoffs looming, and he did just that on a weather-marred Friday afternoon in Akron.
Walker announced in April that he had been diagnosed with Lyme disease, which has often sapped his strength and stamina this year. It’s shown in his results, with just one top-ten finish so far. The last time he had fewer than five was back in 2011.
If fatigue was going to set in this week, Friday would have been as likely a time as any. As storms rolled through Akron, play was delayed off and on for over five hours. Players like Jon Rahm (77), Dustin Johnson (75) and Bubba Watson (74) were taken almost entirely out of contention. But Walker carried on, with his 65 pushing him to the top of the leaderboard.
Walker acknowledged that he still isn’t 100 percent healthy, but he’s making strides managing his symptoms.
"“It’s day to day,” he said after the round. “I felt pretty good all week physically, and I wake up this morning and I’ve just got his overall flu feeling in my body. So I take some Advil, it goes away. And then during the last break, it came back, so I took some more. Now it’s gone. You just never know when it’s going to spike up.”"
With a chance to defend his PGA Championship title coming next week, Walker will look to hold on for two more rounds. He’s been one of the best players on TOUR for the last five years, and it would be a huge return to form after such a tough season.
Jason Day – on the comeback trail in a “home game”
Other than Tiger Woods, there’s no big-name player who’s had a tougher year than Jason Day. To say he’s been inconsistent would be putting it mildly. He’s got just six top-25 finishes in 14 events this season, and his four missed cuts equal his last three seasons’ totals combined.
However, Day is maximizing on this week’s “home game” at Firestone. He and wife Ellie live about
two hours away from Firestone, near Columbus, and he’s spent time this week with Cavaliers star J.R. Smith. Ask any golfer and they’ll tell you the same thing – this sport is infinitely easier when you’re comfortable and having fun.
Day is clearly doing both this week. While his ongoing back issues flared up once again during his opening round of 71, he seemed far more comfortable on Friday.
The rain delays took their toll on Day, just as they did on nearly every player in the field. After going out in five-under 30 on the front nine, including three straight birdies to start, Day gave a shot back on the second nine with bogeys on Nos. 10 and 14.
Day’s biggest return to form showed on the greens. He said that it felt like he had returned to the form that brought him to the world No. 1 ranking, and that’s an impressive comparison.
It remains to be seen if Day can keep this form up, but as weather conditions become favorable on Saturday, look for him to press a little bit harder to catch up to Walker and the others at the top of the leaderboard.
There’s plenty of golf left to be played at one of the TOUR’s premier tournaments. Who are you looking for to make a big jump on Moving Day?