Featured Group: Watney, Watson and KaymerMarch 16, 2011
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
At each PGA TOUR event this season, a featured pairing will be highlighted prior to the first round. Here is the featured group for Thursday and Friday at the Transitions Championship.
Nick WATNEY, Martin KAYMER and Bubba WATSON RD. 1 tee time (No. 10): 8:48 a.m. ET
RD. 2 tee time (No. 1): 1:33 p.m. ET
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Three players who featured prominently in 2010's final major championship are paired together in the first two rounds of this week's Transitions Championship.
Not to mention, Martin Kaymer ranks No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking and Nick Watney and Bubba Watson have already won PGA TOUR events this year. How's that for star power on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort?
Watson, who had to withdraw from the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship last week with the flu, is energized by the draw. Here's what he tweeted on Tuesday:
"Had a little practice today, body is still off with the meds I had to take. Thursday & Friday will be fun with Watney & #1 in the group!!"
Watney was the one who took the lead into the final round of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits last year but Kaymer made up four strokes beat Watson in a three-hole aggregate playoff. The 26-year-old from Germany has won three times on the European Tour since that signature victory.
"In the playoff against an American player, it was always very difficult for me because it felt like all of America against me," Kaymer said on Tuesday. "It was important for me to win such a big thing. It wasn't just a major. It was a major playing against Bubba and then winning, it gave me a lot of confidence."
Indeed. Kaymer ended Lee Westwood's 17-week reign as world No. 1 with a runner-up finish at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship three weeks ago. With none of the five players underneath him competing this week, Kaymer should eclipse countryman Bernhard Langer's three-week stay at the top in 1986.
Watney is the man with the hot hand, though, after his win at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship on Sunday. The two-stroke victory over Dustin Johnson was the 29-year-old Watney's third and marked his sixth straight top-10 finish dating back to last year's TOUR Championship.
Watney showed a flair for the dramatic at TPC Blue Monster, too. He punctuated the victory with a 13-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole -- one of just three made at the demanding par 4 in the final round.
The meltdown at the PGA, where Watney closed with an 81 and ended up tying for 18th, is just a distant memory now. With the win, the earnest Californian finds himself second in the FedExCup standings, his first appearance in the top five since week 18 in 2009, and 15th in the world. He's a combined 74 under in his last 24 rounds and has a scoring average of 68.17 during that stretch.
Watson's win at the Farmers Insurance Open in January was the second of his career -- and came at the expense of hometown favorite Phil Mickelson. Watson, who is ranked sixth in the FedExCup and 17th in the world, also reached the consolation bout of the Accenture Match Play Championship and picked up his second top-10 of the season when he finished fourth.
Statistical comparison Key stats from Watney, Kaymer, Watson from the 2011 season (TOUR rank in parentheses) Category
Driving distance 298.1 (13th) 284.1 (118th) 314.8 (1st) Driving accuracy 58.74% (114th) 48.21% (185th) 60.17% (100th) Greens in regulation 69.10% (33rd) 61.11% (162nd) 76.80% (1st) Putting average 1.688 (3rd) 1.659 (1st) 1.766 (81st) Scoring average 68.85 (1st) 71.52 (127th) 71.45 (121st)
The amiable Floridian ranks first on TOUR in driving distance (314.8 yards) and greens in regulation (76.80 percent) which is a deadly combination. Not surprisingly, Watson goes for the green at TOUR-leading 77 percent of the time and his birdie or better conversation percentage is 63.
EXPERT PREDICTIONS: We asked some of our PGATOUR.COM experts to predict which player will fare best this week at the Transitions Championship.
Stan Awtrey: Watney: He's been as consistently good as anyone on TOUR this year. He's full of confidence after last week's win and is coming to an Innisbrook course he likes; he finished fourth there a year ago and tied for 12th in 2009.
Craig Dolch: Can't see Martin Kaymer playing poorly on consecutive weeks.
PGA TOUR Season Summary Bubba Watson Nick Watney Martin Kaymer 2011 Top 10's 2 5 1 Current FEC Rank 6th 2nd --- 2010 FEC Rank 22nd 12th --- 2009 FEC Rank 53rd 12th --- 2008 FEC Rank 30th 109th --- 2007 FEC Rank 37th 41st --- Finish Last Week DNS Win T-24 2011 Rd 1 Scoring Avg. 70.60 68.75 66 2011 Rd 2 Scoring Avg. 68.50 69.00 70 Career at Transitions Championship Appearance 6th 6th 1st Wins 0 0 --- Top 10s 1 1 --- Best Finish 3 / 2010 4 / 2010 --- Last Appearance / Finish 2010 / 3 2010 / 4 --- Rd 1 Scoring Avg. 72.00 70.40 --- Rd 2 Scoring Avg. 71.80 70.40 ---
Melanie Hauser: Watney. Can you say momentum? Yes, Bubba finished third last year, but Watney was fourth. Like the humility and the way he closed last week.
FANTASY INSIDER: All three players should in your Yahoo! line-up, according to this week's Fantasy Insider.