Watney eager for Augusta return

Nick Watney missed a 10-foot birdie putt on Augusta National’s 18th hole, a putt that would’ve given him a final-round 64, one shot off the course record. “Next time,” he said ruefully.

Watney wasn’t just talking about that putt, but about the Masters. He has a good record here, one made even better by his Sunday 65 (tied for the day’s low round with Anthony Kim). The round moved him into seventh place, good for his first career top 10 in a major. He had three sub-par rounds this week, but his chances were ruined by a second-round 76. He shot 8-under 280 (68-76-71-65).

“I’m already looking forward to next year,” the two-time PGA Tour winner said after signing his scorecard. “It’s a dream come true to play a great round Sunday at Augusta. I’m very, very happy. I love this place.

“Maybe if I can eliminate that 76, who knows?”

Watney’s instructor, Butch Harmon, predicted big things for his 28-year-old pupil. When asked if he had a future major champion on his hands, Harmon said, “There’s no doubt about it, and it’ll probably be at this course, as much as he loves this course. And he’s still learning it.”

Watney has played in three Masters. He tied for 11th in 2008 and finished 19th last year. He opened this week with 68, then was 1 under on his first five holes in the second round to get on the leaderboard. He made five bogeys and no birdies over the last 13 holes of that round.

“The first couple days, definitely the second day, I saw the leaders were playing well and kind of tried to force a few things,” Watney said. “That’s not a good thing out here.”

Here’s a breakdown of Watney’s easy eight-birdie Sunday, all of which came on putts inside 15 feet:

• No. 2 – Up-and-down from greenside bunker. Six-foot birdie putt.

• No. 3 – Pitching wedge to 8 feet.

• No. 6 – 7-iron to 12 feet.

• No. 7 – Pitching wedge to 2 feet.

• No. 8 – Chipped to 6 inches after being greenside in two on the par 5.

• No. 13 – Two-putt on par 5.

• No. 15 – Two-putt on par 5.

• No. 17 – Pitching wedge to 4 feet