After 13 years, Walker ready to play Woods

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After 13 years, Walker ready to play Woods

SAN DIEGO - Jimmy Walker is playing the opening two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open with Tiger Woods.

That will be 35 more holes than the first time they played together.

Walker was a senior at Baylor when he used his parents’ credit card - against their wishes because it was during finals - to go through Monday qualifying for the Byron Nelson Championship. He got in the field and after taking one final exam, ran up to Dallas for a practice round at Cottonwood Valley using a local caddie.

“All of a sudden, Tiger is over on the front nine and my guys is like, ‘Hey, there’s Tiger over there,’?” Walker said.

This was 2001. It was Woods’ first tournament since he won the Masters for his fourth straight major. “So he pretty much was owning everybody,” Walker said.

Woods skipped over to the par 5 that Walker was playing, so Walker picked up his ball and headed to the next tee. Woods picked up his ball and headed to the same tee.

“He’s like, ‘Can I play through you? I’m trying to play real fast and get a couple of holes in?’ I said, ‘Dude, you can do whatever you want,’?” Walker recalled.

So this was the one hole they played together, and it was memorable for Walker for one reason.

“I am literally shaking,” he said. “I have every bad-swing thought possible - don’t shank it, top it, all that stuff. I make contact. I look up and it’s heading right at it. Can’t see it because it’s kind of in the setting sun. We walked down there and he asked what’s going on, I told him I qualified Monday. We talked and it was really cool and he was really nice. We get down there and his ball is about 15 feet away and mine’s about 6 feet away.”

Woods picked up his ball and was on his way. But there was a lesson for Walker.

“I can remember thinking, ‘Man, if I was that nervous and I hit that good of a shot, I guarantee I will never be that nervous again my entire life - ever,’?” Walker said.

He recalls narrowly missing the cut. And then he qualified for his first U.S. Open at Southern Hills. Walker played a practice round that week with Nick Faldo.

No big deal.

“It was so easy compared to that one shot,” he said.

So when his wife sent him a text Tuesday that he was playing with Woods and Jordan Spieth, Walker offered a predictable response: “Sounds fun.” AP
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