Donald, Watney battle their way into TOUR Championship by Coca-ColaNick Watney and Luke Donald made big moves at the BMW Championship to advance to East Lake.September 16, 2013
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
LAKE FOREST, Ill -- When his sixth birdie of the day found the bottom of the cup at the 13th hole in Monday's final round of the BMW Championship, Nick Watney took a glimpse into his immediate future. He liked what he saw.
I'm going to Atlanta, Watney thought to himself.
Although he started the week outside the top 30 in FedExCup points, Watney did indeed play his way into this week's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Thanks to his 6-under 64 on Monday -- the low round of the day -- Watney finished runner-up to tournament winner Zach Johnson and moved from 34th to 12th in the points standings going into East Lake.
"That was definitely a goal starting this week," Watney said. "Starting the Playoffs, I was well outside, and I knew you could move up quickly in this format.
"I knew I needed to have a good week. The guys ahead of me where ahead of me for a reason. They've been playing well all year. Luckily for me, I kind of pulled everything together."
Indeed. Watney's 14-1/2 foot birdie putt at the 13th put him safely inside the top 30 projections. At that point, he changed his focus. Instead of chasing a spot at East Lake, he could now chase the tournament leaders.
Even though he came up two strokes shy of catching Johnson, Watney thinks he can make some noise next week at East Lake.
"I did everything pretty well today," Watney said. "I drove it in a lot of fairways and putted really, really well. I'm excited. I'm really excited for next week."
Watney isn't the only one.
Luke Donald, a dues-paying member at Conway Farms, also produced a big round on his home course to advance to East Lake.
Donald was even farther back (54th in points) than Watney starting the tournament, and his first two rounds of 1-under 70 didn't do much for his chances. But the former world No. 1 rallied in his final 36 holes, shooting 67-66 to finish in a tie for fourth with Steve Stricker, Jason Day and Hunter Mahan.
"I figured at the begining of the week top 5 or better was probably going to do it for me," said Donald, who reeled off four consecutive birdies on his back nine Monday. "I knew I had to go pretty low today. Fortunately, I got it going a little bit on the back nine when I needed to."
Still, there were some nervous moments. He bogeyed the 16th, which dropped him outside the top 30, but birdied the par-3 17th, hitting his tee shot to 6 feet. Then he had to two-putt from 40 feet at the 18th to save par and secure his spot to East Lake.
"There were nerves the last couple of holes, probably from 15 onwards," Donald said. "I knew I had got myself into position where I had a chance, and that's why we practice hard, to get in those positions. Fortunately, I was able to hit some good shots when I needed to."
Donald is now 29th in points, having jumped 25 spots, the biggest move of anybody in the 70-man field. He faces steep odds to win the FedExCup -- he must win the tournament and hope that the points leaders all stumble. But he'll take it.
"It's obviously harder the higher you're up near 30," Donald said. "But certainly if you're not there, you don't have any chance."
Other players from outside the top 30 certainly had their chances to reach East Lake but came up short.
Jimmy Walker came to the 18th hole needing birdie. He made par and finished 36th.
Matt Jones came to the 18th hole needing birdie. His putt burned the edge before slipping away and finished 32nd.
Harris English came to the 18th hole needing birdie. Instead, he made bogey and finished 31st.
"I knew I had to play well, and I just hit a lot of loose shots this week, made a lot of big numbers, and you can't do that out here," English said.
English also had the misfortune of hitting a poor tee shot at the par-5 eighth hole on Sunday just before the horn blew to suspend play. He had to hit another tee shot on the way to a double bogey that proved costly to his Playoffs chances.
"We were teeing off yesterday when it was absolutely torrential downpour, and I couldn't even hold onto to the club, and just hit it left off the tee and nobody saw it," English recalled. "Probably plugged in the rough or something.
"They blew the horn about a minute after we teed off, so it was kind of a tough break, but over the career you're going to have good breaks and bad breaks."
English started the week 28th in points and was one of the two players who fell outside the top 30. Lee Westwood, No. 30, battled injury issues at Conway Farms and slipped out.
With just Watney and Donald moving in, that allowed Dustin Johnson to stay inside it and make the TOUR Championship.
Johnson, who had started the week 23rd in points, was one of the few finishers on Sunday before the heavy rain halted play. He finished in a tie for 62nd on the leaderboard and was projected outside the top 30 Sunday night.
But after the dust settled, he held on to the 30th and final spot.