THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Call it a cliché, but this has been a tale of two seasons for Nick Watney.
In his first 21 starts of 2012, Watney posted only three top-10 results, his best being a solo eighth-place finish at the Quail Hollow Championship. Since then, his seven appearances have included a pair of victories, earning titles at The Barclays and the CIMB Classic – and his strong play looks to be carrying into this week, as an opening-round 5-under 67 has him in first place at the World Challenge.
“I started hitting the ball much, much better at the U.S. Open,” Watney said. “Took a week off, spent some time with [instructor] Butch [Harmon], and something kind of clicked there, and I started playing much better. I think that was kind of the turnaround.”
Looking back on his poor early-season play, Watney admits that his struggles were more than just technical issues with his game.
“The first five months were not very good at all,” he continued. “I don't know where I was in the world [ranking], but I sort of thought that I think maybe if I'm really honest with myself, looking back I think I kind of rested on that a little bit, whereas now I think I want to keep going higher.”
He can’t get much higher than his current place on the leaderboard. Watney’s five-birdie, no-bogey performance included a putting display he called “great” – and it all goes back to a lesson he had prior to The Barclays in August.
“I got a lesson from Darrell Kestner there at Deepdale at Barclays, and just really focused on my setup, which made me a lot more consistent,” he said. “I'm on a good path. I know what I need to do, which I think is important. When you're struggling you may not know. … I found what I need to work on. I think I found the formula I need to do. So I'm excited for this off-season and next year, as well.”