Watney heading into elite territory

By Doug FergusonMarch 14, 2011, 4:18 pm

WGC-Cadillac ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. – With two key par putts and a birdie on the 18th hole at Doral that is sure to become a defining moment for Nick Watney, he won a World Golf Championship and pushed his way into the conversation of top American golfers.

It sure didn’t look as if Watney was headed there six months ago.

Golf had been a struggle since his 81 in the final round of the PGA Championship. He was playing for the sixth time in seven weeks, all while planning to get married.

So when he finished the second round of the Tour Championship toward the bottom of the pack, his caddie told him he was toast and called him “Melba.”

Watney was nodding his head when he stopped.


Melba toast, caddie Chad Reynolds explained, although it became clear Watney had never heard of it.

The joke lasted until Watney closed with 63-67 – someone even left a box of Melba toast in his locker on the weekend – and nearly captured the FedEx Cup. He hasn’t finished out of the top 10 in official PGA Tour events since then.

Sunday at the Cadillac Championship was the sweetest of all for so many reasons.

“Top 10 finishes are nice,” Watney said. “But winning is what counts out here and that’s how you’re measured. To win this tournament against this field, it’s a huge honor. I’m very excited. I’m very proud.”

It was the third career win for the 29-year-old Watney, and it’s not hard to figure out he called the “biggest day of my golfing career.” Against a world-class field, he delivered shots for the occasion.

Watney closed with a 5-under 67 for a two-shot victory over Dustin Johnson, which was impressive in its own right. But he had to conquer a few demons along the way on the Blue Monster, and Watney never flinched.

Two years ago, Watney matched Phil Mickelson shot-for-shot in a Sunday duel until Watney’s hopes ended when his 30-foot birdie putt on the last hole stopped one turn from going in.

On Saturday, he lost focus on his tee shot at the 18th hole and pulled it into the water, taking a double bogey to fall out of the lead.

Both times, he pulled his cap over his head. He looked a bit like Melba.

On Sunday, though, he came out swinging.

Watney made a pair of birdies at the start and end of the front nine to catch up to Johnson, then took a one-shot lead twice with birdies on the par-5 10th and 12th holes.

From the right bunker on the par-3 13th, he blasted out weakly and was headed for a bogey until making an 18-foot par. Behind him, Johnson ended his streak of 12 straight pars with a shot from a fairway bunker that struck the pin and settled 2 feet away for birdie to tie for the lead.

Watney was in trouble again. He went long on the par-3 15th and his delicate shot from the sand to a green running away from him barely reached the fringe. From 30 feet away, he made another big par putt.

“I feel like that’s what happens when you win a golf tournament. You make some putts that you really need to,” Watney said.

Johnson blinked first, going bunker-to-bunker on the 16th for bogey to fall one shot behind.

That’s when Watney arrived on the 18th tee, the most daunting shot on the Blue Monster, and by far the toughest hole. There had been only two birdies all day. There is water left, and bailing out to the right amid palm trees often keeps players from getting to the green.

Watney took a deep breath and drilled it.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Watney said. “I really wanted to take care of business and to grasp this opportunity. I actually love that feeling; you don’t get it too often. But I really love to be … yeah, I guess I was a little nervous.

“But it’s fun,” he said when the laughter subsided. “That’s why you play. I’m thinking, ‘I have to be in this moment – right now – because this is all that counts.”’

He made it count, all right. His 8-iron settled 12 feet behind the flag, and with Johnson watching from the 18th fairway, Watney made the birdie putt and pumped his fist. That put him at 16-under 272, meaning Johnson had to hole out to force a playoff.

Johnson’s 9-iron covered the flag, but landed softly about 8 feet away. Typical of his day, he missed the putt and shot 71.

“I did everything I wanted to do, and just couldn’t get it in the hole,” Johnson said.

Franceso Molinari (69) and Anders Hansen (67) tied for third, and it was a big day for Hansen, who moves into the top 50 in the world and now needs to stay there the next two weeks to get into the Masters.

It was a big day for Tiger Woods, relatively speaking.

Woods matched his best score of the year with a 6-under 66, and when Rory McIlroy dunked his tee shot into the water on the 18th hole and made bogey, that enabled Woods to tie for 10th.

It was his first top 10 in an official PGA Tour event in nine months, dating to the U.S. Open.

“I want to win golf tournaments … and I didn’t do that this week,” Woods said. “But I showed positive signs for the next time I play, which is a good thing.”

Now there’s another running joke with Watney and his caddie.

They made a bet on Sunday at Torrey Pines, their first tournament of the year, when Reynolds mentioned he needed a hair cut. Watney suggested no hair cut until they finished out of the top 10, which was a safe bet since he was 11 shots out of the lead. Watney shot 63 in the final round to crack the top 10, pulled off another great Sunday at Pebble Beach to do the same, then beat world No. 1 Lee Westwood in the Match Play Championship to secure a top 10.

And now a win.

“It’s been five tournaments now, over a couple of months,” Watney said. “I’m not sure how it’s getting so much attention. But his hair is looking a little bit nasty.”

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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 1:19 pm

After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.

Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.

Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.

Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.

It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath. 

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Woods would 'love' to see Tour allow shorts

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:59 pm

Players on the European Tour are allowed to wear shorts during practices and pro-ams.

The PGA of America permitted players to show some leg while prepping for last year’s PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods would like to see the PGA Tour follow suit.

"I would love it," he said Thursday in a Facebook Live with Bridgestone Golf. "We play in some of the hottest climates on the planet. We usually travel with the sun, and a lot of our events are played in the summer, and then on top of that when we have the winter months here a lot of the guys go down to South Africa and Australia where it's summer down there.

"It would be nice to wear shorts. Even with my little chicken legs, I still would like to wear shorts."

Caddies are currently allowed to wear shorts on Tour, during events.

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Feasting again: McIlroy shoots 65 to lead BMW PGA

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:04 pm

Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET

Rory McIlroy made seven birdies and no bogeys on Friday for a 7-under 65 and the second-round lead at the BMW PGA Championship.

After opening in 67, McIlroy was among the early groups out on Day 2 at Wentworth Club. He made three birdies and no bogeys on the par-35 front nine on Friday, and then went on a run after the turn.

McIlroy made four consecutive birdies, beginning at the par-5 12th. That got him to 12 under, overall, and gave him a clear advantage over the field. With two closing par-5s, a very low number was in sight. But, as he did on Day 1, McIlroy finished par-par.

"I've made four pars there [on 17 and 18] when I really should be making at least two birdies, but I played the other par-5s well," McIlroy said. "It all balances itself out."

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy has made 14 birdies and two bogeys through two rounds. At 12 under, he has a three-stroke lead over Sam Horsfield.

"The work has paid off, to some degree," McIlroy said of his practice with swing coach Michael Bannon. "I still feel like I'm hitting some loose shots out there. But, for the most part, it's been really good. If I can keep these swing thoughts and keep going in the right direction, hopefully this is the type of golf I'll be able to produce."

This event has been feast or famine for McIlroy. He won here in 2014, but has three missed cuts in his other three starts. This week, however, he’ll be around for the weekend and is in position for his first European Tour victory since the 2016 Irish Open and his second worldwide victory of the year (Arnold Palmer Invitational).

"I have the confidence that I'm playing well and I can go out and try to just replicate what I did the day before," McIlroy said about his weekend approach with the lead. "On the first tee box tomorrow I'll be thinking about what I did today. Trying to just keep the same thoughts, make the same swings. I went a couple better today than I did yesterday. I'm not sure I'll keep that progression going but something similiar tomorrow would be nice."

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."