Two years ago at the inaugural Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship presented by Samsung, Aaron Watkins found himself in a playoff with Steve Pate. Pate went on to become the oldest winner in Nationwide Tour history, while Watkins struggled to find his confidence the rest of 2010. He bounced back in 2011 with nine top-25 finishes to end the year 43rd on the Nationwide Tour money list. This year he has a new outlook and attitude and is looking forward to fighting his way back to the PGA TOUR, where he played in 2009.
1. Do you still think about that 3-footer you missed on the playoff hole at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship in 2010??
Not anymore. Anybody who says they get over things like that real quick is lying. I thought about it for months on end. Especially when I finished 64th on the money list. The weight it carried that year... missing the short putt was very disappointing. In the end though, you have to feel good that you put yourself in that position. The more I put myself in that position, the better. That was my first time. It was a little nerve wracking. If I can just get myself in that position again, hopefully I can win.
2. You started off this season by Monday qualifying for the PGA TOUR's Waste Management Phoenix Open.
We have such a long break between when the Nationwide Tour season ends and the new one starts. I took about two months off and got right back into practicing. The place where they play the Monday qualifier, I've never been a big fan of, but I look at it as a competitive round to get me ready for the season. And then I happened to get in. I didn't play very good, but overall it was just a fun event. Anytime you get to play in a hometown event is great. I got to see a lot of friends out there.
3. Does that give you confidence going into your first Nationwide Tour tournament??
I could see the results of some of the things I've been working on. My game was definitely showing sings of getting there. I've been working hard to get ready for Colombia and fine tune my game. I just need to get more consistent.
4. What have you been working on during the off-season??
Really just consistency. Last year was probably my most consistent year I've had since I turned pro. I've played a lot of good tournaments for three rounds, but unfortunately we play 72 hole events. I've been trying to work on not having that bad day and just trying to keep it under par. Some of that has been my attitude. If things go downhill, I tend to get down on myself. But my wife let's me know when I'm being a baby. She reminds me to enjoy the moment. It doesn't matter what city you're in, how you're playing. In the end, you're playing golf for a living.
5. You and your wife welcomed a new baby girl to your family in December. Has she had any impact on your attitude and outlook on the game??
Yeah, I think she's really helped my attitude. My wife made me ball markers with her picture on them. I can look down at them when I'm playing and smile. I think having her has leveled me out, where I'm not yelling at myself or yelling at my caddie. There are still going to be times where I get frustrated, but as long as I deal with it and get over it before the next shot I should be good.
6. In addition to your playoff loss here in 2010, you were T13 last year. What is it about this course that suits your game??
I'm a straight ball hitter. It's not a very long golf course and because we're up at altitude, everyone has to hit it in the same spot. I read the greens there very well. And just put myself in position on the greens. I've got a pretty good knack out there of knowing where to hit it on certain greens and pins and where to miss it. Knock on wood! Living in Arizona is also an advantage. We get to play year round.
7. Are you excited about President Clinton's appearance at the event this week??
It was a big hit this year when he got involved with the [Humana Challenge]. This tournament over the last two years has been a pretty big success. We have had some great crowds. Pacific Rubiales has done a great job. Last year the weather was a little iffy so we didn't have a lot of people out, but with the President coming out it should be fun. I'm hoping to get a picture with him.
8. What tournament are you most looking forward to this year??
I went to school in Kansas, so I look forward to anytime I can back there. I have played very well in the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open every year but one that I've been there. It gives me a chance to see some friends. I'm only two hours away from college, so it's nice to get back where everyone bleeds purple. We're chanting and singing the school song. It's fun.
9. What will it take for you to consider this year a success??
I definitely want to win. I want to win the first three events. I know it's a big goal, but if I play my game, I think I have a chance. So definitely win, and finish in the top 25. I know I missed out by about $50,000 last year, but I definitely had a chance. And I'm feeling confident after the Waste Management.