2023 RBC Heritage Round 2: Can Walker keep it up?
Jimmy Walker had made 396 PGA Tour starts before this week, and only three of them at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. Harbour Town Golf Links isn’t supposed to suit his game.
“Historically, I've been not the straightest driver of the golf ball,” Walker said after Friday’s second round of the 2023 Heritage. “So this golf course looks very tight to me.”
You wouldn’t know it after watching the Texas native and former Baylor Bear card a second consecutive 6-under-par 65 at Harbour Town to take a three-shot lead into the weekend with a world-class field in his wake.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
Team Lowco's Justin Jarrett and Wes Kerr break down Round 2 of the 2023 RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing:
Despite his aforementioned erratic history that made him a stranger to Harbour Town for most of his lengthy career, Walker has been dialed in the past two days. He has gained 3.33 shots on the field from tee-to-green, third only to Patrick Cantlay (+3.55) and Xander Schauffele (+3.41), two of the certified Big Name Golfers hoping to chase him down this weekend.
And once Walker has found the green, he has done a stellar job of getting it in the hole, gaining 2.06 shots putting, fifth-best in the field.
“I've always felt like playing this place was all about ball-striking because if you're striking it well, if you hit the green, you're going to have a birdie putt, it seems like, because the greens are so tiny,” Walker said. “So that's what I've concentrated on is just getting it on the green and seeing some putts go in. That's basically been it.”
Even with a three-shot advantage going into the weekend, Walker is a borderline longshot to hang on and slip into a tartan jacket Sunday evening, according to datagolf.com, which continues to back pre-tournament favorite Scottie Scheffler (17.5%) as the favorite with Cantlay (14.8%) and Schauffele (12.2%) the next most-likely champions.
Scheffler, who will vault back to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings regardless of where he or current No. 1 Jon Rahm finish this weekend, is among a trio tied for second at -9 along with Schauffele and Justin Rose. Cantlay heads a group of five tied at -8, including overnight leader Viktor Hovland, 18-hole leader Aaron Rai — who birdied his last two holes Friday morning to finish an 8-under 63 after Thursday’s first round was suspended by darkness — and Tommy Fleetwood, who charged back into contention with a 6-under 65 Friday.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth is lurking in a tie for 10th at -7 alongside 2014 Heritage champion Matt Kuchar and a pair of past Players Amateur champions in Rickie Fowler and Savannah native Brian Harman.
Then there’s Rahm, who honored his commitment to play the Heritage even after an emotional win at the Masters and was all but written off after opening with a 72. Rahmbo responded with the round of the day, a 7-under 64 that vaulted him back into the top 20.
With excellent scoring conditions expected again Saturday, especially in the morning, it is shaping up to be an exciting, perhaps chaotic, Moving Day at Harbour Town with a major-championship caliber field competing for a major-championship level purse.
Unlike most of the golfers chasing him, Walker hasn’t been in this position recently, but he doesn’t seem to be intimidated by the moment in the least.
“I've never felt like I've ever been afraid to go win a golf tournament,” Walker said. “I've won golf tournaments in all sorts of fashions, big events. Played in the biggest stages. Nothing this weekend is any different than anything I've ever done honestly. Just go do it again because it's fun if you win.”
HERITAGE FAST FACTS
via PGA Tour Communications
Cut: 73 professionals at 2-under 140 from a field of 143 professionals
Jimmy Walker 65-65—130 (-12)
Scottie Scheffler 68-65—133 (-9)
Justin Rose 66-67—133 (-9)
Xander Schauffele 67-66—133 (-9)
Things to Know
• Six-time PGA TOUR winner Jimmy Walker, who has one top-10 in his last 98 starts on TOUR, holds the 36-hole lead/co-lead for the ninth time on the PGA TOUR (3-for-8 to date)
• Walker opens with two rounds of 65 or better for the first time in 397 PGA TOUR starts
• The three players currently T2 are making their 100th (Scottie Scheffler), 150th (Xander Schauffele) and 400th (Justin Rose) PGA TOUR start
• Currently T2 in his tournament debut, World No. 2 Scottie Scheffler will move into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking with a victory this week regardless of where current No. 1 Jon Rahm finishes
• Coming off a victory at the Masters Tournament, FedExCup leader Jon Rahm’s eight-stroke improvement from round one to two is the largest of his TOUR career
• 2022 runner-up Patrick Cantlay (T5) records his third ace on the PGA TOUR and hopes to become the first player to win a tournament one year after losing it in a playoff since 2008
• Defending champion Jordan Spieth (T10) trails by five in bid to successfully defend on TOUR for the first time in 12 tries
Second-Round Lead Notes
3 — Second-round leaders/co-leaders to win the RBC Heritage since 2010 (most recent: Stewart Cink/2021)
7 — Second-round leaders/co-leaders to win on TOUR in 2022-23 (most recent: Matt Wallace/Corales Puntacana Championship)
Jimmy Walker (1st/-12)
Age 44 (January 16, 1979)
• Entered the week ranked 141st in the FedExCup and 406th in the Official World Golf Rankings.
• Has six wins and 46 top-10s in 396 career PGA TOUR starts.
• Holds the second-round lead for the ninth time in his PGA TOUR career; 3-for-8 to date, with his most recent victory after holding the 36-hole lead/co-lead coming at the 2016 PGA Championship
• With rounds of 65-65, opens a PGA TOUR event with two rounds of 65 or better for the first time in 397 starts
• The last two players to open the RBC Heritage with two rounds of 65 or better went on to win: Webb Simpson (2020), Stewart Cink (2021)
• At 12-under 130, equals his second-lowest opening 36-hole score on TOUR (128/2012 Wyndham Championship/T4, 130/2015 AT&T Byron Nelson/T2)
• Competing this season on career money exemption (top 50 in career money)
• Has one top-10 in his last 98 starts on TOUR
• Making his fourth career start at the RBC Heritage (17th/2005, MC/2010, MC/2020)
• Making his 31st start since his last top-10 finish on TOUR (2021 Memorial Tournament presented by Workday/T6)
• PGA TOUR wins (6): 2013 Fortinet Championship, 2014 Sony Open in Hawaii, 2014 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, 2015 Sony Open in Hawaii, 2015 Valero Texas Open, 2016 PGA Championship
Scottie Scheffler (T2/-9)
• Making his tournament debut and 100th PGA TOUR start, World No. 2 will move into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking with a victory this week regardless of where current No. 1 Jon Rahm finishes
• Has eight top-10s in 11 starts this season, including four as the defending champion in a nine-week stretch, most recently finishing T10 at last week’s Masters Tournament
Patrick Cantlay (T5/-8)
• 2022 RBC Heritage runner-up and World No. 4 aces the par-3 seventh hole with a 6-iron from 200 yards
• Marks his third hole-in-on on the PGA TOUR and the third ace at the RBC Heritage in the last six years (all coming at No. 7)
• Last player to make an ace and go on to win the same week: Justin Rose at the 2023 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
• Last player to win a tournament one year after losing it in a playoff: Ryuji Imada at the 2008 AT&T Classic
• Has only finished outside the top 10 once in five starts at the RBC Heritage (T3/2017, T7/2018, T3/2019, MC/2021, P2/2022)
Jordan Spieth (T10/-7)
• Defending champion has never successfully defended a title in 11 previous attempts on the PGA TOUR
• Would become the fourth player to successfully defend a title this season (Max Homa, Rory McIlroy, Scheffler)
• There were five successful title defenses on TOUR last season (most since 2007)
• The last player to successfully defend a title at the RBC Heritage is Boo Weekley in 2008
Jon Rahm (T18/-6)
• Coming off a victory at the Masters, FedExCup leader and World No. 1 sits T18 following rounds of 72-64
• Eight-stroke improvement is the largest from round one to round two in his career
• With four wins this season, looking to become the first player to win five times in a season since Justin Thomas in 2016-17
• With a win this week, would become the first player to win consecutive tournaments including a major since Rory McIlroy
in 2014 (WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, PGA Championship)
• Making his 400th PGA TOUR start, 2023 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am champion Justin Rose (T2/-9) is seeking to become the fourth multiple winner of the season (Rahm/4, Scheffler/2, Homa/2)
• Making his 150th PGA TOUR start, World No. 6 Xander Schauffele (T2/-9) trails by three following a second-round 66
• In his tournament debut, first-round leader Aaron Rai (T5/-8) trails by four following an even-par 71
• Zach Johnson (T23/-5) posts an even-par 71, carding 18 pars for the first time in a round on the PGA TOUR (1,641 strokeplay rounds)
• 53-year-old Ernie Els (T34/-4) makes the cut for the first time on the PGA TOUR since the 2020 RBC Heritage (T48)