Sunday, August 26, 2012
Will U.S. show 'Love' for Watney win?
By Farrell Evans
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- People that know Nick Watney call him "Rube." His college buddies started calling him that after the "Major League II" character who was unfailingly polite.
At the start of the final round of The Barclays on Sunday, most of the attention was focused on the flamboyant Sergio Garcia, who held a two-shot lead over Watney coming into the day. Garcia was trying to win for back-to-back weeks on the PGA Tour.
But by afternoon, the 31-year-old Watney had stolen the show in his unassuming way, completing the season's 24th come-from-behind win on the 2012 PGA Tour.
Garcia's four-over-par 75 may have cleared a path for Watney's fifth career PGA Tour win, but the Sacramento native helped himself with a two-under 69 for a 10-under total and a three-shot win over Brandt Snedeker.
After winning twice last year, including the prestigious WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, Fla., Watney, a former Fresno State star, hasn't had a great 2012 season. Coming into The Barclays, he had only three top-10s on the year and was 49th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Watney wasn't even assured of a place in the season finale at the Tour Championship. Last year, Watney tied for 10th at The Barclays, which was shortened to 54 holes because of Hurricane Irene.
Now with the win on a Bethpage Black course that got more difficult as the week progressed, Watney moves to first on the points list heading into the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.
This victory was also very important for Watney's chances of getting one of Davis Love III's four captain's picks. At 30th in the Ryder Cup standings, Watney probably wasn't on anybody's radar for a spot on the U.S. team. But now he has to be taken seriously in a heated competition with proven stars such as Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, and Dustin Johnson for one of those four picks.
"Coming in here, I didn't deserve to be in the conversation, because I had not played my way in," Watney said of the Ryder Cup. "Someone told me that Davis said he wanted a hot player, and we still have a week to go, but like I said, I'd love to be on the team.
"But I'm not really concerned with it just because it's out of my control."
After Watney made his sixth birdie on Sunday at the 18th hole, Garcia congratulated him and told him that he wished Watney would make the U.S. team.
"I'm not, obviously, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain," Garcia said, "but I think both Nick and Brandt played great. They have been playing very nicely, obviously Nick has had a little bit of a slower year, but you know, as a player, I hope they make the team, and then we'll see what happens there."
Watney, who said that he has struggled both with the technical and mental aspects of his game this year, got a putting tip earlier this week from Darrell Kestner, a well-regarded club pro in the New York City area.
Kestner helped Watney get his weight a little bit more on the balls of his feet in his setup. That adjustment helped Watney track the putter much better, and he said that The Barclays marked his best putting week of the year.
Watney has the Deutsche Bank Championship to make another case as to why he should be on the U.S. team. Love will make his four picks the day after the completion of the tournament. Love has the unenviable task of picking from a deep bench. Mahan, Johnson, Snedeker and Stricker all have wins on the year. And Furyk has been on seven Ryder Cup teams.
Snedeker's second-place finish this week and Johnson's tie for third must also place them in good standing with Love.
Were Watney to be picked, he would join a team that already has three rookies, but his inexperience shouldn't keep him off the squad. A win or a top-five finish in Boston should assure him a place in Medinah, Ill.
But it's Love's decision and I hope that he doesn't leave a hot Rube off the team. It wouldn't be the polite thing to do.