Nick Watney is one of those players that make people say that the talent on Tour is deeper than it ever has been.
The 31-year old put all his gifts on display this week, coming from two strokes back in the final round to win The Barclays Championship, the first round of the PGA Tour’s Playoffs for the FedExCup.
Watney’s final round 69 gave him a four round total of 10-under 274, three strokes ahead of runner-up Brandt Snedeker and four shots clear of third-round leader Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson.
Garcia came into the week fresh off his first Tour victory in four years at the Wyndham Championship, and for much of the week it looked like he would be the Tour’s first winner in consecutive weeks since Tiger Woods in 2009. His stellar play had him at 10-under going into the final round, winning over the vocal New York crowds that had ragged him mercilessly in the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens.
But Garcia played the last 10 holes in a disastrous 4-over par, while Watney played the same stretch 1-under. The key to Watney’s success was in the numbers; he led the field in greens in regulation and putted confidently on the super-slick Bethpage greens.
“The difference this week was my putting,” Watney said. “I missed a few short ones but I also mad a couple of long ones, but on the whole I think the greens were pretty tough and I putted pretty well.”
Watney’s season had been disappointing until this week, with his best finish coming at the Wells Fargo Chmapionship in early May. But his win this week guarantees him a place in the hunt for the $10 million first prize awarded to the winner of the Playoffs, and also puts him on the radar as Captain Davis Love III prepares to make his four at-large selections for the Ryder Cup team.
Throughout his career, Watney has always seemed capable of great things. The sweet-swinging Californian was a three-time All-American at Fresno State, and has posted five wins in his career. Interestingly, three of his wins have come at venues know for hosting major championships; this year’s Barclays joins wins at Torrey Pines (2009 Buick Invitational) and Congressional (2011 AT&T Invitational).
It was another disappointing weekend for Tiger Woods. He led the FedExCup points race at the start of the tournament and could have taken over the world No. 1 ranking with a win. But a back-nine 40 on Sunday erased his chances of contending. Woods tallied a 5-over 76 and tied for 38th at 1-over for the week.
No star shone brighter this week than the host venue itself. If any course can claim the title “America’s Course”, Bethpage Black would be one of the leading contenders. Like any New Yorker, the Long Island track is tough, demanding and loves the spotlight.
It has only hosted three PGA Tour events, a couple of U.S. Opens and the 2012 Barclays. While this week’s event wasn’t a major, it definitely had the intensity and degree of difficulty. Though technology and player fitness has had ten years to catch up since Bethpage Black put an epic beatdown on the entire field in the 2002 U.S. Open, the track would probably need only another inch of length in the rough to get the scores to 2002 levels. While it’s fun to watch the best palyers in the world throw darts at pins and rack up baskets of birdies, it just as fun to watch them wrestle a challenging course that tries to throw them off like a bucking bronco.
Next week takes the players to TPC Boston for the Deutsche Bank Championship, but Garcia will not be in the field. He announced that he will skip the tournament in order to be rested for the remainder of the Playoffs and the upcoming Ryder Cup.
Michael Williams is the contributing editor of Newschannel8 Capital Golf Weekly and Bunkershot.com, as well as a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.