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August 8, 2017

Jimmy Walker

Charlotte, North Carolina

JOHN DEVER: Welcome back to the 99th PGA Championship, Quail Hollow Club. Pleased to be joined by defending champion Jimmy Walker.

Jimmy, thanks for being here with me. Welcome back to your seventh PGA Championship of your career. It's been a year-plus since Baltusrol, and you've gone through a wide range of emotions but you've played really well last week. What's the state of your game right now?

JIMMY WALKER: It's trending. It feels pretty good. I had 54 solid holes last week and two nines that weren't very good. But I think you take the positives from that and say, wow, I was making some birdies, I was leading the WGC. Things are looking good, honestly. That's nice.

JOHN DEVER: You're the defending champion this year, and you've done this a few times in your career. You actually did it in 2014 at the Sony. Is there anything that you can take from two or three years ago and plug it in here this week?

JIMMY WALKER: I think so. It's just one little thing that I've done and I've done it before. I've defended. I've won back-to-back years.

It is a different golf course. It's a complete different part of the country. So in that sense, it's a lot different. But when you get down to it, it's just hitting good golf shots and making putts and that's what you've got to do. You've got to do that any week to win.

And I know that's what I did very well at Sony those two years that I won. I was comfortable at the golf course, putted exceptionally well, drove it pretty well, and that was just the key. I really got into a crazy good roll that second time I won, that second year, especially on Sunday. The weekend was phenomenal.

Q. Was it odd seeing everybody out there in shorts today? It's something different for the PGA.
JIMMY WALKER: I think it's pretty cool. Just kind of thinking outside the box a little bit, and I applaud the PGA for doing that. I think the guys are having fun doing it. It's not like we don't see each other in shorts. But everybody is razzing each other a little bit. I think some there's guys that look really good in shorts and some guys that don't look really good in shorts. It's pretty funny. I think a lot of untanned legs -- you can tell those Florida boys. You know they have been down there soaking the sun up. I've been up in Utah and I've been overseas for two weeks, wet and cold, so my legs aren't very tan right now.

Q. Can you give us an update of how you're feeling health-wise? And can you talk about the closing stretch, the Green Mile, and how difficult it is to get in with a good round with those closing three holes?
JIMMY WALKER: Yeah, feeling better, a lot better than I have, and it's nice. I've got a lot more energy. I'm able to practice more and that's just been something I've been kind of lacking. I do feel good on that front.

The Green Mile, it's getting longer by the year it seems like. I think we were hitting driver, 5-iron, 4-iron into 16 today. It was a 5-iron, 4-iron in our group today. 18 today was a driver, 2-iron, 3-iron. I mean, it was playing exceptionally long.

I think it's kind of one of those stretches where you'd love to shoot even par on them and get out of there. It makes for a tough finish. If you're chasing a guy down, you're going to have to hit some extremely good golf shots to make some birdies coming down the stretch, especially if it stays as soft as it is, with the fairways just not running out.

Q. You were one of seven straight first-time winners in a major championship. Do you agree with Jack Nicklaus when he says there's more players in the game right now that can win majors than ever before?
JIMMY WALKER: I would think -- I would say that, yes, there are a lot of players out here that could win a major and/or any given week. I can't really speak to playing golf when Jack was in his prime and when those guys were in their prime. You hear people say, oh, there's only 20 guys that can win. Now there's 80 guys that can win, whatever. But I just know that the quality of golf anymore is really good. There's a lot of really good players and a lot of really good players from all over the world, and I think everybody here that's playing has got a real good shot, especially when you start seeing all this first-time stuff happening.

Q. What are your thoughts on the new opening hole here, and what club are you hitting into that green when it's soft out here?
JIMMY WALKER: I played it yesterday. I like the tee -- I think the tee shot looks good. I think it's framed up nice. You've got trees on both sides. You have got those two bunkers out there, you can kind of use as a nice starting line and feed it off of it because the fairway likes to slope down into the right. So it looks good off the tee.

And then the second shot, I hit 6-iron in yesterday and it was into the wind pretty good when we played yesterday, and the ball was actually rolling a little bit more. It played into the wind yesterday pretty good, and I hit driver, 6-iron. I can see with no wind, you could really get one kind of working down around the corner. You could hit anywhere from a 7 to a 9-iron to a wedge in there, just depending on how fast it was rolling. But today they were all backing up.

Q. When you have a lingering illness as you've had, how do you get well when you know that every week that you take off to try to get better, you're in danger of falling behind in the points race and whatnot; when there is no season when everyone is off?
JIMMY WALKER: Yeah, it's tough. I know last year I was a little -- after the Playoffs, I was looking to end The Ryder Cup, there was a lot of emotional energy spent, especially winning this.

Then having a pretty good playoff run, I had a couple of good events. Then winning The Ryder Cup, I was ready for a little break. But we seem to play golf 24/7, 365 anymore, and every event counts and everything means so much.

Then to get sick, not feel well, not be able to work, not be able to practice and then have to take some time off for medication, yeah, I mean, you get that sensation like, wow, I'm really falling back. But we've just taken the mindset that it is what it is, and it's just the way it is. We just keep working and we keep moving forward and we keep trying to get as healthy as possible and try to get back to 100 percent and just go from there.

I'm not worried about the golf or the game. Doing what we did last year, being able to win this tournament and set yourself up for basically the rest of your career, is just a nice -- it's a huge relief. But the competitor inside you, it's really hard to, it's kind of hard to take when you can't get out there and get going.

I know everybody likes time off from work, but I really don't. I enjoy coming out and playing and competing, and when you can't do it at your best, it's tough. You've kind of got to give yourself a little bit of a break, which is hard to do, and I'm working hard on it.

Q. Because you are competitive and you do like to play, would you like to have an enforced break where you're not the person in charge of the time off; where someone else is forcing you to take that time off? Would it make a difference?
JIMMY WALKER: I don't know. I think an off-season does sound nice. I mean, I'm not going to lie. A couple months off would be great where you could just go home and relax and let your body heal and be with your kids and your family, and just have a couple months off, 2 1/2 months off. It sounds awesome. Get your body back in shape, get your head right, just relax. But anymore, it's just run-and-gun all the time.

Q. What do you think the dynamics would be if you had a one-shot lead going to the 17th hole, the difference of having that here, where you've got a peninsula par 3 and brutal par 4, compared with like Baltusrol last year where you had a pair of par 5s, which one is easier to cope with, I guess?
JIMMY WALKER: I think last year was easier to cope with. The thing with 17 last year, it's so long, I wanted to make birdie because you never knew what Jason was going to do. Obviously you're thinking birdie. But it's almost one of those, if you miss that fairway and you don't hit a very good tee shot and you get in a spot in the rough, you can't cover that next crossing, so you have to lay up short of it and then you're sending something in there with a crazy long iron or a wood. So there's still a lot of pressure to hit that fairway.

And then same for me, finishing up 18, it's sure nice to hit it in the fairway. That way you can do whatever you want to do with the second shot. You hit it in the rough. You never know what you're going to get. You have to lay up short again or you can go over.

But here, it's very -- it's very right out in front of you. It's just a par 3, and it's very daunting looking. Especially today it was 220 yards, or whatever it was, into that little peninsula green you're talking about. So it's definitely a good finish.

That last three holes, they give you a little break there. They give you some birdie holes on 14, 15 and then 16, 17, 18, if you want to make a closing birdie or two, you have to really play some good golf.

Q. To what extent do you think that the tweaks that they have made to the course of late, changes, what you all are used to relative to when you play the Wells Fargo here?
JIMMY WALKER: I don't think -- I mean, I've always thought the golf course was really good. I don't think that they have made it any better and/or worse. I think it's just got a different look.

I know No. 5, the old par 5, was a very difficult driving hole. It was very difficult to get it into the fairway because you had to hit such a hard draw around the corner. And I think they maybe recognized that a little bit, so they changed that up.

I like what they did with 11. I think 11 is a really good hole now.

They have made 1 quite a bit more difficult.

I always thought 2 was a great hole. Great little par 3 down the hole. Lots of run-off. Good kind of tricky green with plenty of space in the run-offs.

Everybody kept asking me, What do you think, how is the golf course and what's it going to be like to play it?

I said, Well, it's going to be a completely different golf course because we've always played it with rye overseed everywhere. It just plays completely different, especially now with the bermuda rough. There's no worse grass to try to hit out of the rough than this stuff, especially when it's wet. It is like -- it is tough, tough, tough stuff.

So it's going to play a lot different, I think.

Q. The news was official today that the PGA is going to move to May in 2019. Can you just give us your thoughts on what the schedule will be like then, kind of having five months of big tournaments for you guys?
JIMMY WALKER: Yeah, I think they have done a nice job of spacing those out. So you'll have THE PLAYERS coming up first and then you get a month to kind of think about the next one, and then a month to think about the next one and so on. So I know as of late, it seems like the summer gets really cramped and crammed.

I know last year, it was very crazy with the Olympics thrown in there, and we had two majors in three weeks, and there's a World Golf Championships. It always kind of crammed in there.

I mean, it's not a big deal, I don't think, but the spacing seems nice. It will be interesting to see if they can add some new golf courses to the rotation for May. I know that those northeast courses have a chance to play a lot different now. Especially you can catch a pretty chilly week up there in May, different weather. We'll see.

Q. Talking player/caddie dynamics here. What, for you, is the importance of a caddie when it comes to the mental aspect of a game?
JIMMY WALKER: I think a good caddie can just kind of keep your ship nice and steady. You don't ride up too high and you don't get down too low, just kind of keep a nice, flat pace going. And I think that's what a really good caddie can do. Especially some understand golf a little better than others and can help you out with reading greens, and I know I've got a guy that's really good at doing all that.

I think a good caddie, it's an asset, and it can be an asset. I know my guy, it's just like all relationships, they go up and down and you have your weeks where you're really meshing well together and everything is really flowing nicely, and you have weeks where you're just like give me the club and give me the number and it's just not working this week. It goes up and down like that. I think that's true for probably all player/caddie relationships.

I've got a good guy. This is eight years for us now.

Q. Jordan was very excited for you last year at the PGA. What were your impressions of what he was able to do at The Open Championship, and just what he's been able to do with his career so far?
JIMMY WALKER: Oh, it was phenomenal. I know we had to leave for the airport right about when he sent that one over by the driving range and kind of had to take that drop. It seemed like the wheels were falling off, but he's the kind of guy that it seems like when he gets behind a little bit, that's when he really starts to shine. You saw that. It was incredible. He made the bogey there and then he starts dropping those putts, long ones, long-range putts, and that's what he does.

It was funny, I know my caddie, he made a couple of bogeys early, and he's like, "It's almost like he needed to lose the need to get refocused and get sharp again." And that's kind of almost exactly what happened there.

But it's phenomenal. He's young and he's got three majors. He's a great player.

Q. You talked last week about kind of the lingering effects of lack of focus and concentration with the health. Are you doing anything with your daily routine to deal with that during a major championship week?
JIMMY WALKER: I don't think there's anything I can really do about it. It's just kind of there. Once you know there's a problem, you can tackle it. You know, I really tried to concentrate -- sounds stupid -- but extra hard week. You know, try harder.

But it just kind of comes and goes. I just try to be 100 percent committed on every shot and see it and feel it, and then try to execute it. So it's just -- it's really hard to describe. It's hard to quantify why that happens, and is that why it's happening. It's tough. It's a weird deal.

I just keep plugging along. Like I said, I had 54 really solid holes last week and that was really good.

Q. Branden Grace shot a 62 at The Open Championship, setting a record low for majors. But can you describe what it felt like during your best round ever?
JIMMY WALKER: Like on TOUR or anywhere?

Q. Yeah, anywhere. Your best round in your life, what did it feel like?
JIMMY WALKER: It just feels easy. Things just happen. It's like you can't screw up. You can't do anything wrong. It just happens.

I had a round the other day at home. It was earlier, I think it was in the spring, early summer at home. I made nine birdies in a row. My previous best was six. I mean, the ball just wouldn't stay out of the hole. It didn't matter what I did or where I hit it, it was going in. It was insane. I'd hit a bad chip and I'd make the putt. I'd hit a bad shot on to the green and I would make a 30-footer.

Days like that are awesome. It's rare but sure is a lot of fun. You're like, just get out of your own way and quit thinking and just keep hitting the shots. So it's fun. I can't imagine doing that in a major. Especially there -- it's funny, actually, Jordan called that that morning at breakfast. He's like, "Somebody's going to shoot 62 today."

Q. What did you shoot that day?
JIMMY WALKER: What did I shoot? I think I shot even par.

Q. With the nine birdies.
JIMMY WALKER: 63, 62. I had a chance to break the course record at my home track and ended my birdie streak with a bogey, two bogeys, actually, 17, 18. It was kind of a bummer.

JOHN DEVER: Thanks for your time today. Good luck with your title defense this week.

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