Watney returning from back injury at Safeway Open


NAPA, Calif. – It turns out there will be one player making a return to the PGA Tour this week at the Safeway Open after an extended break because of an injured back.

Nick Watney is playing his first event since the Farmers Insurance Open in January after being sidelined for most of last season with a herniated disc in his lower back.

“I feel great,” Watney said on Tuesday at Silverado Resort & Spa. “I’ve never really been injured before, so it was a long year just watching and sitting on the sidelines, but now I’m back and super excited.”

Watney said the majors were the most difficult to miss and that he spent a good amount of his rehabilitation watching golf on TV.

“I wanted to try and stay close and see if I could learn from afar,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in contention, so just to watch and see how guys handle it because you have a different perspective when you’re away from the game for a while.”

Safeway Open: Articles, photos and videos

Watney said he began hitting 9-irons in mid-July and started playing practice rounds in mid-August. Over the last few weeks he started to walk when he played at home instead of riding a golf cart and worked his way up to four consecutive days to prepare for the Safeway Open, which is something of a home game for Watney who was born in nearby Sacramento, Calif.

“I tried to be real careful about not doing anything too quickly,” Watney said. “Once I knew I was out for the entire year I just wanted to be as smart as I could be. I didn’t want to have to miss a day because I did too much the day before.”

Tiger Woods was scheduled to return this week after a 14-month layoff from multiple back procedures, but withdrew from the event on Monday.