HONOLULU ---Jimmy Walker was in surprisingly good spirits Tuesday afternoon on the practice putting green at Waialae Country Club, slapping hands with fellow players and Titleist equipment representatives and chatting easily with Jerry Kelly and John Daly. Less than 24 hours earlier he had frittered away the Hyundai Tournament of Champions despite playing some of the best golf of his career. Credit his father, Jim, for quickly assuaging his disappointment. A scratch golfer, Jim had introduced his son to the game and delivered some soothing words to his talented son. "My dad sent me a cool text last night," Walker said as he prepares to defend his title in this week's Sony Open in Hawaii. "He goes, 'I know you're bummed, but Jack Nicklaus finished second in the majors 19 times. Tell me that guy hasn't had some heartbreak -- more than you're experiencing right now.' You know, I had never finished second before in a PGA Tour event. I realized it's OK. I learned a lot. I learned about what not to do." Co-leader through 54 holes with Hideki Matsuyama, Walker built a lead of as many as three strokes Monday at Kapalua Resort's Plantation Course. He ended up a stroke ahead of Matsuyama, as well as Russell Henley and Jason Day, at 21-under 271, but didn't count on Patrick Reed making up four shots in the last four holes to also post 271. Fueling Reed's late burst was an eagle-2 from 88 yards on the par-4 16th hole.
"Twitter is just the worst thing to be looking at. You just see stuff, you read stuff," he said, shaking his head. "It's just not the best thing. It's funny. I know it's part of the deal. But. . .I played good. I've never played 72 holes before and made two bogeys. I've never done that. I didn't make as many birdies coming down the stretch that I needed to." He said he didn't intentionally tack towards a defensive game plan. However, as well as he was swinging the club, he shouldn't have been thinking about protecting his lead. "If you look at the shots I was hitting, I got maybe just a bit lead-protective, even though I wasn't trying to be. I was hitting it so darn good I could have done anything I wanted with the golf ball. I'm not going to say next time be more aggressive, but I can take better lines, more aggressive lines, and try to increase the lead instead of holding on." Walker hardly needed the tutorial on winning; he did so three times last season - the first three wins of his career, in fact. Included was a one-stroke victory at Waialae CC. He fired a final-round 7-under 63 to edge third-round leader Chris Kirk. That's a better memory to build on, which was another reason Walker was shaking off his first runner-up finish. "It's nice to have the chance to defend," he said. "I'm coming back to a place I like and had some success. Really, I'm playing well and feeling very comfortable. I am ready to get back at it this week." It would help if he just read texts from his dad and stayed away from Twitter