Watney moving in the right direction
Before going into the final round of the AT&T National with
a share of the lead, Nick Watney checked in with his swing coach,
Butch Harmon. Neither of them had much to say.
It was handled in a short text message.
”Butch always says one of his strengths is to not say anything
if there’s nothing to be said,” Watney said. ”So he just said,
‘Keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll talk again today.”’
There wasn’t much to be said on Sunday, either.
Watney, equipped with a solid game and the experience of a World
Golf Championship title earlier this year, completed a command
performance on the weekend at Aronimink with a bogey-free round of
a 4-under 66 for a two-shot victory over K.J. Choi.
First came a three-shot swing on the second hole to dispatch of
Rickie Fowler, the first big threat. And when Choi made a late
charge to catch him, a two-shot swing on the punishing 15th hole
sent Watney to places he had never been.
He moved up to No. 10 in the world, and leads the PGA Tour money
list and FedEx Cup standings for the first time in his career.
”That’s very special,” Watney said of his world ranking.
”That was one of my goals at the beginning of the year, to try to
get in the top 10. That’s really, really cool. But at the same
time, I can’t rest on that. I’m very, very pleased, but I feel
there’s still work to be done.”
Harmon watched the tournament on tape delay from his home in Las
Vegas, although he knew the outcome before it ended. Harmon regards
Watney like a son, and he had to hold back tears when his pupil won
the World Golf Championship at Doral in March.
Told of Watney’s comments about the text, Harmon just
”When he’s playing well, it’s best to just leave him alone,”
Harmon said. ”I learned that from my dad. ‘If ain’t broke, don’t
fix it.’ And he’s a long way from broken. That win at Doral gave
him a lot of confidence. It was an elite field. And he learned from
Doral was only one win, but the way Watney won made it feel
worth far more in confidence.
It was last summer at Whistling Straits when Watney had a
three-shot lead going into the final round of the PGA Championship
and staggered home to an 81.
Then at Doral, he was tied for the lead on Saturday until
hooking his tee shot into the water on the 18th. In the final
round, Watney came to the 18th with a one-shot lead and facing one
of the most daunting tee shots in golf. He striped it down the
middle, fired at the flag and finished with a birdie.
”Yeah, I think that was worth more than just a good tee shot on
the last hole. That meant a lot,” Watney said. ”And I drew on
that today, just being nervous and being able to have some positive
memories of pulling off a good shot under pressure.”
Most of the pressure Watney felt Sunday at Aronimink came on the
Despite seizing control early with his birdie on No. 2, he had
to hole a 20-foot putt to save par from the bunker on No. 4, then
made a 12-foot putt for par after being in the bunker on No. 7.
About that time, Choi was starting to hit his stride and Jeff
Overton was making a move three groups ahead of them. Watney hit a
solid shot on the par-3 eighth – a hole that yielded only two
birdies in the final round – only to see it go over the green. He
putted weakly up the slope, 18 feet away, then holed yet another
big par putt.
”That was big not to drop a shot after hitting a good shot, and
keep momentum heading to the back nine,” Choi said.
Choi birdied three of the first five holes on the back nine to
catch Watney, but the South Korean found trouble in a bunker on the
15th and made double bogey. Watney was short of the green on the
503-yard hole, but lagged his putt from 75 feet and got away with
When he blasted a drive down the fairway on the par-5 16th,
leaving him a 7-iron to the green and a simple two-putt birdie, the
tournament was effectively over.
”I’m overjoyed,” Watney said. ”K.J. played great golf, and he
kept coming and coming, and that makes it even more
Fowler, tied for the lead with Watney, couldn’t get anything to
fall and shot 74 to tie for 13th. Of the three players who tied for
third – Charles Howell III, Overton and Adam Scott – the
consolation prize when to Howell. He was the only one among the top
five not already in the British Open, giving him a spot in the
field at Royal St. George’s.
That’s the next step for Watney. The majors are about the only
place where he has struggled this year. He never broke par at the
Masters and was 18 shots behind, and missed the cut at the U.S.
Time to call Harmon? Not really.
”The best thing was he was really down on himself after the
U.S. Open,” Harmon said. ”I kind of gave him a kick in the butt.
I told him, ‘You can’t go play it over again. It’s done with. Go
forward. You know you’re playing as well as you have in your life,
get moving.’ And he did.”