Byron Nelson notes: Walker poised to become PGA’s first three-time winner

Jimmy Walker sank birdies on his final three holes Thursday to finish with a 6-under 64. “I putted really well today,” he said.
Jimmy Walker sank birdies on his final three holes Thursday to finish with a 6-under 64. “I putted really well today,” he said. AP

No offense to the other pros, but San Antonio’s Jimmy Walker wants to be the first three-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.

Walker shot a near-flawless 64 in Thursday’s opening round of the AT&T Byron Nelson at the TPC Four Seasons Resort.

“I’m a Texas guy and lived here a long time,” said Walker. “So yeah, winning in Texas is cool.”

Walker is in second, two shots behind Steven Bowditch of Flower Mound. Dallas’ Jordan Spieth is seven shots back. Walker, Spieth and Rory McIlroy are the only two-winners this season.

Walker started the year by winning the Sony Open in Hawaii, and he added San Antonio’s Valero Texas Open title in March.

“Being able to do it a month-and-a-half ago was incredible,” he said.

Walker started the Nelson on the back nine, opening with birdies on 10 and 12. He bogeyed his fifth hole, added birdies on his 10th and 14th holes, then poured in three more birdies on his final three holes.

“I putted really well today, which is something I hadn’t done in the last two or three or four weeks,” said Walker, who needed just 25 putts for the day. “It’s nice to get out and hit some real quality iron shots, let the putter go, and hit the fairways. It just fed off of everything.”

Teen, too

Irving resident and nationally ranked junior player Austin Connelly shot a 1-under 69, matching the opening-round score of Jordan Spieth.

“It kind of felt like I expected,” said Connelly, who in 2010 watched Spieth from Dallas Jesuit dazzle the Nelson crowd on his way to a tie for 16th. “I watched Jordan do it a few years ago and I really enjoy that atmosphere. The crowds and everything, I really relished ever second of it.”

Connelly, who has signed with Arkansas, is No. 2 in Golfweek rankings, and third on the AJGA list. He got in the Nelson as an alternate, after 11 players withdrew by Wednesday.

“If I can get into contention and keep playing smart, I think this could be a really big week for me,” he said.

Welcome back

Dallas resident Hunter Mahan navigated the Four Seasons course for a 2two-under 68, his first Nelson since critical comments in 2011.

“I’m just here to play golf and I’ve made peace with what I said and apologized for it,” Mahan said. “It wasn’t anything personal to anyone or anything. I just said this is a place I have a tough time at and I took a couple of years off. To me I’ve moved on and I’m excited to play the rest of this week.”

Asked if the course was any different, he replied: “It’s the same; same course.”

The 68 was just his ninth under-par Nelson round in 25 circuits.

“I didn’t stick some wedges that I wanted to, but I was close to shooting 5 under or so,” he said. “I wasn’t far away from that. I’ve got three rounds left so there’s plenty of time left to shoot a good score. I just hope we don’t get any more rain.”

Home-base ace

Call it a home-course advantage, Danny Lee said.

On Thursday, Lee, a TPC Four Seasons member, sank his third career hole-in-one, the latest on the par-3 No. 17.

“A member’s bounce today,” Lee said with a smile.

Swinging a 5-iron, Lee dropped his shot a few feet short of the pin and watched it disappear into the cup 190 yards away.

“I’m just really blessed I was able to make a hole-in-one in front of all my friends and fans out there,” Lee said.

The ace won John A. (no last name for privacy) from Yulee, Fla., a year’s mortgage payment from Quicken Loans as part of their Hole-in-One Sweepstakes.

“It was pretty loud,” Lee said of 17th hole atmosphere after his shot. “I think I made someone else’s day and I’m pretty happy about it.”

Little did he know, he actually did.

Correspondent Travis L. Brown contributed to this report.

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