Here’s what it’s like to be in the zone, according to a major champion

Back in 2016, Jimmy Walker was playing some of the best golf of his life. In fact, the pinnacle of his career thus far — his lone major win, the PGA Championship, happened in July of that year.

Walker opened with a round of 65 at Baltusrol to lead the field, and never looked back, following up with rounds of 66, 68 and 67 to ultimately edge Jason Day in a wire-to-wire victory by one stroke.

Walker’s total tally of 14 under par was an impressive one at the famed New Jersey track, and on this week’s episode of Off Course with Claude Harmon, Walker explained what it feels like to play golf in the coveted “zone.”

Jimmy Walker in finish position
Why this major winner and Ryder Cupper thinks he ‘underachieved’
By: Jessica Marksbury

“It’s kinda like — this feeling of calmness comes over you,” Walker said. “But it’s still stressful because you’re trying to do something that’s really hard to do: really go low. It’s about getting out of your way, and staying out of the way, and really embracing the fact that man, I’m hitting it good.

“And there’s really nothing to be afraid of,” he continued. “I’m putting good. Just keeping the pedal down. You’ve got blinders on. You’re like, there’s the fairway, there’s the green, that’s where the flag’s at, and that’s where my ball’s going. I’m gonna get there and I’m gonna make it.”

Walker said positive self-talk is part of it too.

“You get up there like, I’m gonna bury this. And that’s what you have to keep doing,” Walker said. “For people that haven’t ever done it, it’s hard to do. And once you do it, if you ever figure it out — some people never figure it out. It’s a tough, tough deal to keep your head and your brain and your mind and your body going for that long a time. People have spurts. They’ll have nine good holes or 12 good holes. And then it falters. We all do it. The ability to be okay with accepting that something amazing could happen and getting out of the way, there’s something to that.”

Walker said that he felt especially calm at Baltusrol because he was confident he could find the green even if he ended up in the rough off the tee.

“I just had this feeling that it was going to be really hard for me to make a bogey,” Walker said. “It was the most calm — I really haven’t ever had it again, but I just had that feeling that whole week, like, I’m not going to make a bogey.”

For more from Walker, including why, despite his accomplishments, he still feels like an underachiever, and why he thinks the PGA Tour needs an offseason, check out the full interview below.

Jessica Marksbury
Golf.com

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.