Honolulu — Jimmy Walker was getting coffee Sunday morning when he saw that U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer had lost a 10-shot lead with 13 holes to play in Abu Dhabi. He went back to his room and told his wife, "Winning is hard."
Later that afternoon, Walker made it look easy.
With the most impressive performance of his career, Walker blew away the field Sunday in the Sony Open by closing with a 7-under 63 to win by nine shots, a record margin for the tournament and the biggest rout on the PGA Tour in nearly six years.
Walker watched Jordan Spieth win the Hero World Challenge last month by 10 shots against an 18-man field and wondered if he was on another planet.
"And that's kind of the way it feels when you watch those performances," Walker said. "You see them and are like, 'Man, what golf course is that guy playing?' And to be able to say you've done that and you've distanced yourself like that, it's really cool. I think it's a good learning experience. Definitely happy to keep the pedal down."
The timing could not have been better.
Six days ago on Maui, Walker lost a tournament he felt he should have won. Sunday on Oahu, he played like he was on his own island.
On a course that lends itself to a free-for-all, Walker shot 62-63 on the weekend and never gave anyone much of a chance. The previous Sony Open record for margin of victory was seven shots, last done by Paul Azinger in 2000. Walker became the first repeat winner of this tournament since Ernie Els in 2004.
Scott Piercy closed with a 66 to finish alone in second. Matt Kuchar, who started the final round two shots out of the lead, didn't make a birdie and shot 71 to tie for third with Harris English and Gary Woodland, who each had a 67. Kuchar ended his streak of 255 rounds on the PGA Tour with at least one birdie.
But this was Walker's show, and it came with a small measure of redemption. Walker had a three-shot lead with five holes to play at Kapalua last Monday when he wound up losing to Patrick Reed in a playoff at the Tournament of Champions. With a quick turnaround, he quickly put it behind him.
"I really wanted to finish out the day like I didn't do last week," Walker said.
He finished at 23-under 257.
The text message Sunday morning from swing coach Butch Harmon was to "keep the pedal down today." The message from caddie Andy Sanders over just about every putt was, "Don't let up."
The decisive moment came at the par-4 eighth hole. Walker and Kuchar both opened with seven straight pars, and Walker stuffed his pitching wedge from 126 yards to 3 feet for birdie. Kuchar pulled his tee shot into the royal palms, punched out short of the green and made bogey.
That two-shot swing gave Walker a four-shot lead, and he was on his way.
"I felt like up to that point everything was kind of stale," Walker said. "I was playing hard, and I hit some really good shots on the first three holes, just didn't make a putt and finally got it open and I finally made the putt. Made a good birdie on 9, another one on 10, and the putts starting go in after that."
Walker made all seven of his birdies over the final 11 holes, and he couldn't miss on the back nine. He took a total of 20 putts on the back nine at Waialae in the third and fourth rounds. And even with a big lead, he kept grinding away over putts he didn't need to make.
It was the largest margin of victory on the PGA Tour since Brian Gay won at Hilton Head by 10 shots in 2009. This was more reminiscent of the last time someone lost in a playoff, and then won the next week. That was Kyle Stanley in 2012, though the circumstances were entirely different.
Stanley made triple bogey on the last hole at Torrey Pines and then lost in a playoff. He won Phoenix the following week with a great rally. Walker didn't do that much wrong at Kapalua except for one bad swing off the tee and failing to make a few putts. Still, the loss stung, and he was more than happy to head home to Texas for a two-week break with another trophy.
"He's one of the hottest players in the world," Piercy said after his round, when Walker was pulling away. "What he's done the last year or two years, nobody's catching him. It's just a cake walk."
Walker didn't treat it like one, which might be why he won by such a healthy margin.
It was his fourth win in his last 32 starts, and he should move up to career-high No. 13 in the world ranking. During his two-week stay in Hawaii, Walker averaged 66 each round and picked up just under $1.7 million. Most importantly, he's going home with another trophy.
Renowned as one of golf's best front-runners, double major winner Martin Kaymer stood on the sixth tee at the Abu Dhabi Championship in the United Arab Emirates, holding a 10-shot lead in the final round and with records in his sights.
Then came one of the biggest turnarounds the sport has seen.
Within 90 minutes, the normally unflappable Kaymer dropped six shots in eight holes and got swallowed up by Gary Stal as the No. 357-ranked Frenchman mounted an improbable surge to win his first European Tour title on Sunday.
"A little shocked, surprised," said Kaymer, his brow furrowed. "I don't know how to put it into words."
The 22-year-old Stal was in a state of shock, too, after shooting a 7-under 65 for a one-shot victory over top-ranked Rory McIlroy — one of his idols. Kaymer was a stroke further back in third after a 75.
Stal had teed off at Abu Dhabi Golf Club that morning with a deficit of eight shots to Kaymer and with only second place on his mind. Indeed, Kaymer, a three-time winner of the event, started the final round protecting a six-shot lead and even McIlroy had said the German was "playing in his own tournament."
Three birdies in his first four holes helped stretch the lead to 10 shots. At 23 under, Kaymer was one stroke off his record under-par score around the National Course.
"When I saw the leaderboard on the fifth hole, I thought it's not possible to win," said Stal, who had an overall 19-under 269.
Kaymer's round started to unravel at No. 6 when he made his first bogey since Thursday — a run of 47 holes. He then had a double bogey at No. 9 after being forced to take a drop when his drive landed under a bush.
The lead Kaymer had held since the first round was wiped out for good when another drive wound up at the base of a bush on No. 13. A drop gave him a poor lie in the sandy wasteland and after chipping out into the fairway, he scuffed his approach shot 10 yards short of the green. He two-putted for a triple bogey and Stal was in front for the first time.
"I do miss fairways, but usually you get away with it OK. You don't make double or triple bogey," Kaymer said. "This is what happened today."
Stal, playing in the group in front of Kaymer, made six birdies from holes 4 to 11 and sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th to move two shots ahead of Kaymer and McIlroy, who stormed into contention with three straight birdies around the turn. Stal's approach to the 18th was tentative and landed in the rough to the right of the green, but he got up and down in two.
Kaymer needed to eagle the last to force a playoff, but a drive into a fairway bunker ended his hopes and he made par.
Stal shed tears after being applauded off the 18th green. He said he was thinking about his mother, Christine, who died of cancer last year while he was playing in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
"I can't believe this," said Stal, whose best previous finish was a tie for fifth at the South African Open seven days earlier.
Kaymer said it was an "interesting day that I need to reflect on," but tried to take the positives from an otherwise impressive first tournament of 2015.
The same can be said of McIlroy, who shot 66 after hitting every green in regulation Sunday to finish second in Abu Dhabi for the fourth time. His ball-striking was superb all week but missing a string of putts on Saturday — when he shot 71 — cost him dear.
"Just a little too late for me today," McIlroy said. "I feel like I'm hitting the ball very, very well. I didn't putt as well as I'd have liked this week, but all parts of my game feel pretty good."
Stal is likely to move into the top 100 in the rankings on Monday after a victory that gives him an exemption on the European Tour until the end of 2017.