Walker takes control at Pebble Beach

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iol spt feb9 Jimmy Walker1 AFP Jimmy Walker fired a four-under par 67 Saturday to seize a six-stroke lead at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

Pebble Beach, United States – American Jimmy Walker, seeking his third US PGA title in eight starts this season, fired a four-under par 67 Saturday to seize a six-stroke lead at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

On a day when severe winds halted play for two hours and 20 minutes, play ended at sunset with 12 golfers being forced to finish their third round on Sunday morning.

Walker sank five birdies against a lone bogey, his first of the event, at Monterey Peninsula to stand on 13-under 202 after 54 holes.

“I'm excited to be here, to be in this position,” Walker said. “This is why you play golf and work hard to be in this position.”

New Zealand's Tim Wilkinson, the only non-US player in the top 17, fired a 69 on the same layout to share second with Hunter Mahan on 208 at the $6.6 million event played over three courses in the first three rounds before Sunday's finish at Pebble Beach.

Richard Lee was fourth on 209 while four-time Pebble Beach champion Phil Mickelson in a pack on 210.

On a day when severe winds halted play for two hours and 20 minutes, play ended at sunset with 12 golfers being forced to finish their third round on Sunday morning.

Winds gusted to 36 mph (58 kmh) on the seaside courses, with trouble starting at Pebble Beach when South African Trevor Immelman's ball was blown off line at the fourth hole.

“It's a shame. We missed the rain but the wind got us,” US PGA vice president Mark Russell said.

Walker, who began the day level for the lead with countryman Jordan Spieth, birdied the second and fourth holes and answered a bogey at the fifth with a birdie at the par-3 seventh.

Walker followed that with eight pars before back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th holes and a closing par to seize command on a day when scores soared, due in part to the blustery conditions.

“Who knows what the weather's going to do?” Walker said. “I know Pebble Beach is a tough golf course, especially with the winds.”

Walker won the Frys.com Open last October and the Sony Open of Hawaii last month.

Walker's six-stroke edge is the largest at Pebble Beach since 2005, when Mickelson led Greg Owen by seven entering the final round, and the first of Walker's PGA career. His two prior wins took place after Sunday comebacks.

Wilkinson opened with back-to-back birdies and closed with another but took bogeys at the fourth and ninth against a birdie at the par-5 sixth on the rest of the layout.

Mahan fired a one-over 72 at Monterey, closing his front nine with two bogeys and aking another at 13 before answering with birdies at the par-3 14th and par-5 16th.

Mickelson fired a 72 at Spyglass Hill to grab a share of fifth on 210.

Spieth has the best score of any of the players who must finish the third round on Sunday, standing four-under with three holes to complete. Brian Gay and Chesson Hadley were on three-under with two holes remaining.

D.A. Points, who was disqualified from the PGA event, kept playing as part of the Pro-Am on Saturday and did so with his partner, former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, one of the first two women to become members at famed Augusta National Golf club, home of the Masters.

They fired a 77 and finished 148th in the Pro-Am field.

“It's not every day that you get to play 18 holes at Spyglass, let alone with Secretary Rice,” Points said.

“It's not just about me and the golf tournament. It's about playing with our amateurs and making sure they have a good time.”

Rice appreciated the effort.

“It meant an enormous amount to me,” Rice said. “He didn't have to do that. And I, more than anybody, know what it's like to be on the road a lot and perhaps get to go home early, but he's a wonderful, wonderful person.

“It speaks really well for him, and for the tour, that he came out and played anyway.” – Sapa-AFP


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