Jimmy Walker will happily swap his traditional early season success for finding form when it really matters as he tries to defend his Valero Texas Open title.
After 187 PGA Tour events without a victory, Walker won three times early in the 2014 season and added two more titles before the end of March last year.
The 37-year-old made a successful defence of the Sony Open in Hawaii with a nine-stroke winning margin, having lost a play-off to Ryder Cup team-mate Patrick Reed in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions the previous week, and then beat fellow Texan Jordan Spieth by four shots at TPC San Antonio.
That win took Walker into the world’s top 10 for the first time, but he has since fallen to 25th in 2016.
“I knew that with what I’ve done the last two years, you’re going to come to a point it’s probably not going to happen and we’ve hit it,” Walker said.
“I would love for the year to really start to take off in the middle of the season this year. Or the end. How cool would that be?
“You never know when you’re going to get hot. I’ve gotten hot in the last two years right out of the gate. It may start this week, maybe next week… who knows?
“I think we’re sitting like 30th in FedExCup Points or something (actually 35th) and so it’s been a good year. It hasn’t been (as good as) the last two years, but it’s been good so far and I think I’m optimistic for the rest of the year.”
Walker certainly has plenty to aim for in the middle of a crowded 2016, which sees the US Open, Open Championship and US PGA crammed into a seven-week period to make room for the Olympics.
And to that end the five-time PGA Tour winner has been working on some weaknesses in his game which he identified after finishing 29th in the Masters.
“I feel like I’ve just been missing out just a little bit here and there,” Walker added. “I got home from Augusta, did some crunching numbers and stuff and just looked at some areas where I might be able to improve and saw some holes.”
Golf in Dubai looks set to pull off a major coup by signing new Masters champion Danny Willett as one of its ambassadors.
Talks began before the 28-year-old claimed the biggest success of his career with a nerveless display at Augusta National.
And Willett’s manager, Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler, expects a deal to be finalised soon, with an agreement that will see the world No. 9 also take part in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic for the next three years.
Willett will return in 2017 as the defending champion after securing a one-shot victory over fellow Englishman Andy Sullivan and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello at the Emirates Golf Club in February.
“It should be done soon,” said Chandler, founder and managing director of International Sports Management (ISM).
“I had already discussed, before he won the Masters, about him being a Golf in Dubai ambassador.
“Just at the moment, we are talking about a three-year deal to play the Dubai Desert Classic with it. It will start from next year.”
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice-chairman and CEO of ‘Golf in Dubai’, confirmed that they have been in talks regarding Willett even before his Masters win.
Buamaim said: “We pride ourselves on the fact that we unearth future talents at an early stage, like we did with Matthew Fitzpatrick. We look forward to continuing our discussion with Chubby Chandler regarding Danny.”
Golf in Dubai’s current ambassadors are a mix of experienced and established stars, as well as promising talent.
They include European Ryder Cup star Thomas Bjorn, two-time Dubai Desert Classic winner Stephen Gallacher, Indian hero Jeev Milkha Singh and former US Amateur champion Fitzpatrick.
Willett himself said he would be delighted to help raise the profile of Dubai as a golfing destination through an ambassadorial role.
“It’s tremendous,” he told Sport360 exclusively. “Dubai is a fantastic place to play golf and a fantastic place to play sport.
“It has got some of the best sporting events in the world now and it’s a fantastic brand to be associated with. To try to support the Middle East in their rise of golf would be brilliant.”
Having accepted membership of the PGA Tour, Willett is set to cut back on some of his European Tour events in 2017. But Chandler revealed that UAE fans could still see the Sheffield-born golfer in action three times next year as he also looks to compete at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and then in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
“I would imagine he would play Abu Dhabi, have a week off and miss the Qatar Masters, and then play Dubai,” he added.
“The one thing that will happen now, after the Masters, is his time will become more precious at golf tournaments. He won’t be able to play quite as much.”
The Yorkshireman has also agreed to join the PGA Tour, where he now has a five-year exemption for winning the Masters. His next event will be the Players Championship in Sawgrass on May 12.
Danny Willett is ready to deal with the soaring expectations that come with a Masters Green Jacket, as soon as he gets round to picking up his clubs again.
Willett claimed his first major championship at Augusta earlier this month, seeing off Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood by three shots in a thrilling final round.
His life changed in an instant, with doors opening to the Olympics and the Ryder Cup this year as well as a career-best ranking of No. 9.
The 28-year-old Yorkshireman has also agreed to join the PGA Tour, which awarded him a five-year exemption yesterday lasting to the end of the 2020/21 season. And when he takes the field at the Players Championship in Sawgrass on May 12 he will do so with a target, rather than a Green Jacket, on his back.
“People will look at you in a new way now, expecting you to be brilliant every time you peg up,” he said. “You never know exactly how you’ll deal with that until you’re in the situation, but I know I’ll have to prepare really well to give myself the best chance to play well.
“I realise that is golf: one week you can go from winning the Masters and the next you can be shooting 85 quite easily.
“But I’m looking forward to the Players Championship, it’s a great event and it’s back in America.”