JIMMY Walker has been warned to expect a “tougher golf course” at Royal Aberdeen than the test awaiting at Hoylake next week in the Open Championship.
He is ready to tackle anything links golf might have in store for him from now on, though, after finding himself thrown in at the deep end at Muirfield last year.
“Friday last year was a bit of a culture shock,” said Walker of his debut in the world’s oldest major. “The golf course changed dramatically from the Thursday morning, when it was very gettable. I didn’t play great, but I think I shot one over.
“Then, by Friday afternoon, the winds had picked up and the golf course had completely browned out. It got very fast and, boy, that was a lot different than I was expecting. You learn a lot trying to hit pitching wedges from 210 yards.”
Apart from a game next door at The Renaissance Club, that’s been the only links golf Walker has played. He’s back for another taste in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, having seen his profile shoot through the roof after racking up three PGA Tour title triumphs in the past 12 months.
“I wanted to get a couple more looks at it (a links course) before next week, but I’m definitely here to compete,” added the world No 18. “All I heard coming in was that this was probably going to be a tougher golf course than Hoylake next week.
“It was the buzz from some of the players and caddies. Some British buddies back home had also talked about how good a golf course this was and how tough it was.”
Walker, leading the FedEx Cup this season, only had to play a few holes to discover that no-one had been pulling his leg. “Trying to keep the ball in certain parts of the fairway almost looked impossible,” he mused. “It’s a place where you kind of want to lay back and then hit a longer shot into the greens. But it’s great preparation for next week.”
Lying second in the points list, Walker is a certainty to make his Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles in September. He was one of the players invited on a reconnaissance trip there this weekend by Tom Watson – but will only be there if he misses the cut in Aberdeen.
“I committed to playing here months and months ago so when he (Watson) called the other day and asked if I wanted to go, I said, ‘boy I’d love to, but I’ve got a prior commitment that I can’t break’. I talked to him and sounds like we’re going to get there (in the week of the match) on Monday so we’ll get plenty of time over there to look at it.
“I could go down there at the weekend (if he failed to make the final two rounds) or I could just head on down to Hoylake and start practising there. There are options - but I’d like to stay here all week.”