LIV exits supply Walker path again to Tour

Jimmy Walker quietly stepped away from the PGA Tour in April, undecided whether or not it was lingering results of Lyme illness or mounting frustration — in all probability each — that led to the choice. He simply knew he wanted to get away for the remainder of the 12 months, possibly two, possibly longer.

After which LIV Golf got here alongside.

The Saudi riches didn’t land at his door in San Antonio, and Walker isn’t certain he would have been . “Historical past is highly effective and it’s what that doesn’t have but,” he stated.

Walker watched from the sidelines, not begrudging anybody who selected to go to the rival league. What he didn’t notice was that for every participant who signed up for LIV Golf — and was suspended by or resigned from the PGA Tour — it solely helped him.

The cellphone name on US Labor Day stunned him.

Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman have been among the many newest to go away, permitting Walker to maneuver up 9 spots to No. 50 in profession earnings on the PGA Tour. That gave him entry to a one-time exemption for the brand new season that begins Thursday.

Walker was completely satisfied at dwelling behind a grill, on his garden mower, going to the health club or chasing after his two boys. He nonetheless performed golf with associates, the show-up-and-swing-it selection. That was enjoyable.

“I’ve been operating and gunning at this skilled sports activities job for 20 years,” he stated. “I simply wanted time to not do a rattling factor.”

Walker additionally knew this opportunity wouldn’t be round subsequent 12 months if he didn’t take it.

“I had no plans to play and I didn’t know after I would play once more. I might need been completed,” Walker stated. “Is it destiny that that is taking place? I don’t know.”

Depart it to the phrases of a kid.

Walker figures he may have retired and been happy with a profession that introduced him a serious championship and two Ryder Cup groups. He’s 43 and nonetheless feels he can do extra. So he requested his sons, 12-year-old McClain and 9-year-old Beckett, in the event that they wished him to go on the highway once more.

“The youngest, Beckett, stated to me: ‘Are you able to be nice once more? For those who suppose you are able to do that, I would like you to go.’ That was an actual tear-jerk second,” Walker stated.

Beckett was aged three when Walker scooped him into his arms on the 18th inexperienced at Baltusrol after his one-shot victory within the 2016 PGA Championship. Can he ship one other second like that? He figures it’s value a shot, particularly when the choice was made for him.

Walker is one instance of how LIV Golf has supplied a path that gamers weren’t anticipating.

One other former PGA champion, Jason Dufner, moved into the highest 50 in profession cash to get his card. Rory Sabbatini landed within the prime 25 in profession cash due to LIV suspensions.

And that’s what had Walker on a industrial flight Monday from San Antonio to Oakland, California, after which a brief drive — no courtesy automobile this week — to Napa for the Fortinet Championship and the beginning of a season he wasn’t planning to play.

He was so decided to make a clear break from golf that Walker stayed dwelling as a substitute of taking part in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, the place he made his professional debut within the 2001 US Open. That will be coming full circle. He most popular full cease.

“I’ve had an incredible profession,” he stated. “I can cling my hat on that.”

It took Walker 178 begins on the PGA Tour earlier than he lastly gained the season opener at CordeValle in 2013 by beating Brooks Koepka, a sponsor exemption who had earned his European Tour our card that 12 months. Koepka was one of many gamers who signed with LIV and enabled Walker to maneuver up the profession earnings checklist.

Walker nonetheless holds the Sony Open file with a nine-shot win in 2015. He peaked a 12 months later when he captured his lone main and performed on his second straight Ryder Cup group, this one a US win at Hazeltine.

A searching journey to King Ranch that fall is the place he suspects he bought Lyme illness, although it took months of signs and uncertainty earlier than he acquired the analysis on the Wednesday earlier than the Masters.

The highway again appeared to get longer the more durable he labored.

He felt positive one week, horrible the following. Treatment made him delicate to the solar. He began combating chipping and placing, the hallmark of his recreation. He was completely satisfied at dwelling in San Antonio, more and more grumpy on the highway.

Now it appears like a contemporary begin. Walker has performed lengthy sufficient to know what’s forward.

Golf is getting youthful and higher. Solely the highest 70 maintain their playing cards on this new season of huge prize funds, one other change introduced on by LIV Golf.

“I had combined feelings leaving,” Walker stated throughout a layover Monday in San Diego. “I do know what it entails, the onerous work and all that. I’m nervous. Actually, I don’t really feel tremendous ready. However there’s not a greater means than to leap proper again into it.

“It might be wonderful, or it might be a catastrophe.”

Both means, it’s one thing Walker wasn’t anticipating. He has LIV Golf to thank for that.

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