More on the Line Than a Major

By Rex HoggardAugust 15, 2010, 6:04 am
2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Dr. Morris Pickens knows Ryder Cup pressure.

He’s had clients use the intensity of the biennial grudge match to reach new heights, and others who buckled under the smothering pressure of making the team. The diminutive southerner knows better than most the game’s most intense exhibition can be cathartic or crushing, which is why he stood behind Whistling Straits’ first tee late Saturday at the PGA Championship eyeing Nick Watney intently.

“I’m really interested to see what he does today,” Pickens said.

Watney, at 16th on the points list and something of a long-shot for a captain’s pick considering an empty cup resume, answered Pickens’ curiosity in waves, pacing a threesome that included one player who had been there before (Jim Furyk) and another who is easily headed there (Matt Kuchar).

Nick Watney
Nick Watney is searching for his first major championship victory. (Getty Images)

Watney birdied five of his first seven holes, one-putted seven of his first 11 holes and is three shots clear of the field after a warm, windy day.

Don’t want to say Watney scorched the faux links layout, but when he finally signed for his third-round 66 it was easy to imagine that somewhere Pete Dye was architecting more bunkers, more fescue, more everything for the lakeside gem.

A win will earn Watney a spot on Corey Pavin’s Ryder Cup squad when the deadline to qualify strikes midnight on Sunday. Another solid round should all but guarantee him a captain’s pick.

And why shouldn’t it?

The way things are shaping up for “Pavin’s project” a man nicknamed “Rube” because of his resemblance to the salt-of-the-earth “Major Leagues” character would be a perfect fit.

Watney has been here before. When the Presidents Cup came to Harding Park last year, the closest thing to a home game for the Sacramento native, he faded following an early-season victory at Torrey Pines, finished 14th on the points list and never got the call from captain Fred Couples.

It’s the type of baggage that makes Watney’s plight this week a study in compartmentalization, if not competitive blinders. But if Watney was feeling the Ryder Cup pressure it would have taken a Sodium Pentothal chaser to drag it out of him.

We spotted the affable northern Californian before his practice round on Tuesday and the conversation focused exclusively on his beloved San Francisco Giants.

“I think we peaked too early,” he smiled at the time.

Not that Watney is indifferent to the gnawing thoughts that people like Pickens get paid healthy sums to make go away.

“In a situation like this you have four options,” Pickens said. “You can play your emotion at the time, you can play the leaderboard, you can play the event and you can play for another day, like the Ryder Cup or rankings.

“(Watney) smiled at me when I told him that (and said), ‘I played all four of those last Sunday.”

Good stuff, particularly from a 29-year-old slow starter who attended a small college (Fresno State) and need two full years on Tour before he found his way and his first title (2007 Zurich Classic).

But then his “Rube” moniker doesn’t dovetail with the lengths to which Watney has gone this year to improve.

At AT&T National he picked up veteran caddie Chad Reynolds, who made his bones on Vijay Singh’s bag. He added Pickens to the team at the U.S. Open and has been trending in the right direction ever since with back-to-back ties for seventh at AT&T and the Open Championship.

“I have played pretty nice from (AT&T National) on. I didn't finish too well at the U.S. Open,” Watney said. “I felt like I was playing well, just making a few mistakes here and there and this week thus far I've kept it pretty tidy.”

For Pickens Watney’s PGA plight reminds him of another client who sweated out a last-minute spot on an American team. At the 2006 PGA Championship Zach Johnson began the week on the Ryder Cup bubble (10th), missed the cut but still made the team and used a solid week at the K Club to catapult himself to a Masters title.

First, however, Watney has to make the team, and deal with all the voices that brings.

“They know, intellectually, what they have to do, but it’s just hard to do what you’re supposed to do,” Pickens said.

This week Pavin said he would make his picks “from the gut” not based on points. Or maybe he meant he wanted gutsy picks. If that’s the case, Rube is your man.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."