Watney comfortable with and performing under pressuretext sizeNick Watney, now a four-time TOUR winner, moved atop the FedExCup standings Sunday.July 03, 2011
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- There are always more lessons learned in losing than in winning.
Just ask Nick Watney, who without his implosion at last year's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, where after leading for 54 holes he shot a final-round 81, might never have gone on to win -- twice -- this year.
"Definitely the moment got the best of me, and I performed very badly," Watney said of his experience at Whistling Straits. "But I really feel like I learned a lot that week, especially Sunday."
What Watney learned was a connect-the-dots kind of lesson that led to him winning at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship earlier this season and again on Sunday at the AT&T National, where he shot a 4-under 66 to hold off K.J. Choi by two strokes.
"I wouldn't say I've figured it out," Watney said. "I think it's just kind of my journey.
"I'm just really trying to work hard and kind of assess my game and work on the weaknesses. I feel like it's a process, and I just need to keep working hard and hopefully keep winning."
The process has included, more than anything, learning to embrace the spotlight and how to thrive in it.
That's what Watney did at TPC Blue Monster at Doral earlier this year, where after pulling his tee shot into the water to lose the lead on the 18th hole Saturday he striped a drive down the middle of the 72nd hole Sunday to help set up a birdie and a two-shot win.
"I feel like that was a big shot," Watney said as he reflected back on the moment. "I don't know if for my career, if that's too much to say, but definitely just for the year. I think that was worth more than just a good tee shot on the last hole."
Interview: Nick Watney
The 2011 AT&T National champion talks to the media after his victory.
What it was worth was the knowledge that he could pull off the big shot in the big moment -- something he'd struggled with in the past.
"It's a very addictive feeling to be out there and under the gun, and to be able to hit good shots and putts is why I play," Watney said.
On this Sunday, there were no late-game heroics. Watney took the lead early with a birdie on No. 2 and never gave it up.
K.J. Choi briefly held a share of the lead with a birdie on the 14th hole, but he gave it right back with a double bogey the next hole.
Jeff Overton put on a charge with five birdies over his first 12 holes to get within a stroke, but he too stumbled down the stretch with three bogeys over his final five holes.
Watney? All he did was par eight of the nine holes on the back nine at Aronimink, including six in a row at one point.
The one he didn't par? The par-5 16th, where he made birdie.
The fact that Watney made it look easy was as much a part of the story as anything.
And when that starts to happen, big things follow.
"Well, I think I'm getting there," Watney said. "I think I'm getting more and more comfortable, but I only have four wins."
And if he keeps playing like this, a fifth won't be far behind.