LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Rookie Brad Fritsch, who needs a top-10 finish to avoid a sprint to Phoenix to see if he can Monday qualify for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, is hanging tough so far at Torrey Pines.
The Campbell (N.C.) University grad birdied two of his first six holes and has moved to 10 under which puts him in a tie for second place with Nick Watney, three strokes off the pace being set by Tiger Woods.
Fritsch, who tied for seventh at q-school and finished 18th on the Web.com Tour money list last year, has played eight holes. Watney, the Sacramento, Calif., native who picked up his fifth PGA TOUR victory at The Barclays last fall, just made the turn in 3 under to join him at 10 under for the tournament.
Josh Teater and Steve Marino are another stroke behind. Teater is playing with Watney, the 2009 champ at Torrey Pines, while Marino is in the penultimate group with Fritsch. Both are 1 under for the day.
The final round will begin at 3:50 p.m. ET. Players will not be repaired in an attempt to complete as many holes as possible. Sunset is expected at 8:16 p.m. ET.
Of the five players at the top of the 2012 FedExCup standings (Brandt Snedeker, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson), who will have the most productive season in 2013?
I'll take a little different path and look at Watney. In 2011 he finished in the top 10 in nearly half his starts, with two wins. Last year wasn't quite as fruitful but his game appeared recharged at the end with his FedExCup Playoffs run and win at The Barclays, putting himself in position for another year where he's around the top nearly every week. -- John Schwarb, Site Producer
The easy way out would be to pick McIlroy or Woods like most of my colleagues, and I certainly wouldn't bet against either. But for argument's sake, let's make a case for Snedeker, who closed the season with three top-10s in the FedExCup Playoffs, including a win at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Confidence, as well as that silky smooth putting stroke, will go a long way for Sneds. -- Helen Ross, Chief of Correspondents
Woods. He showed major improvements last year with his three TOUR wins, but you know he still has major wins on his mind. I wouldn't be surprised to see him on top of the standings again, and this time winning the FedExCup trophy. -- Anne Szeker, Site Producer
McIlroy. He’s the best player in the game and capable of even more. Think about it: Despite winning 2012 PGA TOUR Player of the Year, McIlroy ranked 156th in driving accuracy, 60th in greens in regulation and 82nd in strokes gained-putting. He can certainly improve. Now that’s a scary thought.
-- Bill Cooney, Site Producer
Tiger. He'll be more productive on the weekend in majors this year. -- Mike McAllister, Managing Editor
Production can be defined in different ways, but McIlroy led PGA TOUR members in both average earnings per event and percentage of available purse won. As he continues to fire on all cylinders, only an injury would seem to prevent a repeat performance even in relatively limited action.
-- Rob Bolton, Fantasy Columnist
If productive means best then it will be McIlroy. He's the best player in the game right now and is starting to create some separation from everyone else. I think Tiger plays well, just not as well as McIlroy.
-- Brian Wacker, Site Producer
I am worried McIlroy's equipment change will take time, and I am not giving up on Woods returning to five-win form. -- Ryan Smithson, Site Producer
Productive is a subjective term but with the five players listed, productive can only be defined in major championships. This group of five doesn't care about scoring average or cuts made or the money list. Productive, for them, means a major and Woods will win a major championship this year.
-- Fred Albers, PGA TOUR Radio
Coming Friday: What player will be the biggest surprise in 2013?
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
Jan. 1 marked the first day equipment companies could officially unveil new staffers for the upcoming season, and, as expected, Nike Golf didn't waste any time, announcing the addition of Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley to the Nike Golf staff for 2013. According to a press release, both players agreed to head-to-toe multi-year deals with the Swoosh brand that includes clubs, balls, footwear, gloves, apparel, headwear and accessories.
Watney and Stanley, both former Titleist staffers, have been two of the PGA TOUR's top young players over the last couple of years. Watney, 31, who joined the PGA TOUR in 2005, has won five times, including two wins in 2011, and a victory last season at The Barclays. He finished fourth in the 2012 FedExCup standings and won more than $3 million.
"I'm really excited about the move and the new equipment I'll have in the bag this year," Watney said. "What I liked the most was Nike's commitment to golf and the direction the company is headed in at the moment. I feel like they'll do whatever it takes in order for me to do my best."
Watney confirmed on Tuesday that he would have all 14 Nike clubs in the bag for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and that he felt comfortable with the new gear. He did note that he'll get a better idea of how the clubs handle perform in windy conditions when he tees it up on Thursday for the first round at Kapalua.
"I think this week will be a pretty good test for me with the new equipment," Watney said. "We're supposed to get some wind during the tournament, and I've been playing at home where I didn't really have to deal with tough conditions. I feel comfortable and anticipate good things with every club in my bag, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see how everything goes."
Stanley, 25, burst onto the scene last season with a dramatic one-shot win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Stanley, who secured his PGA TOUR card in 2011, earned more than $2.3 million in 2012 and finished 31st in the FedExCup standings.
Also making his debut this week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Stanley said that even though he played a schedule that finished in early December at the Australian Open, he's already found a comfort level with his new Nike equipment — especially the 20XI X ball. While Stanley said he was impressed with Nike's entire equipment line, he said the new ball played a big part in the switch from Titleist to Nike.
"The ball doesn't spin as much with my wedges," Stanley said. "With my shorter irons I can be a little more aggressive with some of my yardages because I really don't have to allow for as much spin. I definitely feel like Nike has the ball and the equipment to take my game to the next level."
He also noted that Nike's VR_S Covert driver gave him an extra 5-6 mph ball speed, which comes out to about 10-20 additional yards off the tee. Even though Stanley finished the season ranked eighth in driving distance on the PGA TOUR, he noted that the comfort level with the club and the added length had him excited about Nike's latest driver offering.
"As far as the shape and design goes, it really put me at ease and I felt comfortable with behind the golf ball from the start," Stanley said. "I also picked up about 5 or 6 more miles per hour ball speed, which is a pretty considerable amount. It's a pretty hot driver."
In Stanley's bag:
Driver: Nike VR_S Covert 9.5-degree, neutral position
Fairway Wood: Nike VR Pro Limited Edition 3-wood/15-degree
Irons: Nike VR Pro Combo (2), VR Pro Blades (3-9)
Wedges: Nike VR Pro 52-degree, 56-degree and 60-degree
Ball: Nike 20XI X
Apparel: Nike Golf Tour Performance
Footwear: Nike Lunar Control II
In Watney's bag:
Driver: Nike VR_S Covert 11.5-degree, neutral position
Fairway Wood: Nike VR_S Covert 3-wood/14-degree and 5-wood/18-degree
Irons: Nike VR Pro Combo (3-PW)
Wedges: Nike VR Pro 55-degree and 59-degree
Putter: Nike Method Prototype
Ball: Nike 20XI
Apparel: Nike Golf Tour Performance Collection
Footwear: Nike Lunar Control II
To preview the 2013 PGA TOUR season, PGATOUR.COM is counting down the Top 100 Players to Watch in 2013. For an archive page with the top 100 players and for an explanation on how the list was compiled, click here.
2013 PREVIEW: What was shaping up to be a relatively average season turned around quickly when Nick Watney won The Barclays and the unofficial CIMB Classic in his final seven starts. He'll likely be working on his putting, which slipped from 12th to 106th in strokes gained, during the offseason. His scoring average tumbled, too -- from fifth to 60th overall and 16th to 127th in the final round.
2012 DEFINING MOMENT: Watney's win at The Barclays helped stake the soft-spoken 31-year-old to a fourth-place finish in the FedExCup that was his highest ever. The Californian trailed Sergio Garcia by two strokes as the final round began and bolted to the top of the leaderboard with a 69 that secured a three-stroke win. His CIMB Classic victory was noteworthy, too, as Watney used a career-low 61 that included a bogey on the final hole to make up a four-stroke deficit. –- Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: What a difficult year for Watney. His game did not come around until after the U.S. Open. It takes a lot of patience to endure six months of frustrating play. Watney broke though with a win at Barclays and I think will be in for a huge year in 2013. -- Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: Unhappy gamers must be kept in context. That he barely broke $3 million after a career year misses the point. He's one of the busiest top-shelf investments that finished the year off better than he started. Chalked up five top 10s and added an unofficial victory at the CIMB classic with a patented closing 61. He deserves a long look in salary games and an automatic bite in second rounds of rotisserie formats. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
2012 QUICK REVIEW
Regular Season ranking
Final Playoffs ranking
|By the Numbers
Cuts made: 23
Rounds played: 94
Top-10 finishes: 5
Money List rank: 22nd
Driving distance: 36th
Driving accuracy: 134th
Greens in regulation: 58th
Strokes gained-putting: 106th
Scoring average: 60th
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
What is your prediction for Nick Watney in 2013? Fill out the form below and let us know.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – By all accounts, Tom Lehman has had a fine season on the Champions Tour. One win, three seconds, 11 top 10s in 18 starts, and a puncher’s chance at winning a second consecutive Schwab Cup title this week at the season finale, the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
But on Tuesday at Desert Mountain, he echoed the lament of many amateur players – the year could have been even better had he been more dialed in with his wedges.
“I haven’t been super sharp inside of 100 yards. I really haven’t,” said Lehman, who trails Bernhard Langer by 211 in the season-long points race. “My wedge game has been off all year. It seems like you kind of get in these streaks where you seem to have all of these in-between yardages. Every big shot you have that you really need to hit it close is just right in between.
“I don't remember a year where I've ever had so many shots that were like 108 yards, or 102 yards or 123 yards into the wind. Where the sand wedge is not quite enough, the pitching wedge is too much. I don't carry a gap wedge. I'm falling into that crack.”
Consequently, Lehman said he’s considering putting a gap wedge into his bag for the first time.
“I'm really good at hitting a 112-yard pitching wedge into the breeze, but I'm not good at hitting 102 pitching wedge into a breeze,” he said. “The sand wedge full into a breeze always spins back 40 feet, so it's like you have this gap where I've just been tortured all year long.”
Of course, to put a gap wedge in requires taking something out. For pros, that means taking a look at fairway woods or hybrids.
“If I took out the rescue (hybrid) and put in the gap, the next week I would be needing that rescue club 27 times,” said Lehman, who plays TaylorMades. “Now I have this gap between my 3-iron and my 3-wood, which is about 50 yards wide versus the gap between a sand wedge and a pitching wedge, which is 20. So there you have the secret.
“To me you have to figure out your bag, bend a couple of clubs a little bit stronger, maybe get a new rescue, which is a little bit weaker. Who knows what? But you got to drop something. Some guys take that out, maybe take the 3-iron out and strengthen the 4-iron. There is all kind of ways to do it. But that means relearning yardages.
“I can tell you, the average golfer, what happens is you get these in between yardages, and you try to hit it so easy you decelerate. You decelerate on a wedge like you decelerate on a putt, and you end up hitting bad shots.”
Have you put an extra wedge in the bag this year? If so, what came out to accommodate it? Tell us in the comments below.
HOT STICK: Robert Garrigus switched to an Odyssey White Ice 2-Ball V-Line putter two months ago at the Deutsche Bank Championship. In four tournaments since then he has finished T4, T10, T22 and, at the CIMB Classic, T2. This putter is 32.5 inches, a mainstream length for a guy who has putted with a 28.5-inch junior-sizied putter and a 46-inch long flatstick.
NEW NIKES: Nike Golf is expanding its Method line of putters with the Method Core Weighted putters, which use fixed weights on the heel and sole to provide optimal weighting for different lengths of putter. The weights lower the center of gravity of the putter and move the center away from the face.
“Most people don’t realize that they are about three-tenths of an inch above the ground at impact,” Nike clubmaker David Franklin said. “You need to keep the center of gravity of the putter as low as you can so that it never gets higher than the CG of the ball. This stops the putter from driving the ball down and creating backspin on the ball.”
WINNER’S BAG: Nick Watney at the CIMB
Driver: Titleist 910D3 (Mitsubishi Diamana White Board, 10.5 degrees)
Fairway woods: Titleist 910F (15, 19 degrees)
Irons: Titleist AP2 (3-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM4 (50, 60 degrees)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron GSS
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Check out the top five shots of the week from the CIMB Classic, AT&T Championship, and Web.com Tour Championship featuring Justin Bolli, Bernhard Langer, Jeff Overton, Nick Watney, and Tiger Woods.
After a fourth-place FedExCup finish and a tie for 10th in Vegas, Nick Watney took his momentum overseas, winning the CIMB Classic by one shot over Robert Garrigus and Bo Van Pelt. Watney racked up 11 birdies Sunday at The MINES Resort & Golf Club, putting himself on 59 watch late in the round.
The 31-year-old needed a birdie on the final hole to join the sub-60 club but took a bogey that took 59 out of play and put victory in doubt. In the final pairing, Garrigus closed birdie-birdie to get close while an identical finish would have put Van Pelt into a playoff. Instead, the Hoosier bridied the 17th but found a greenside bunker with his approach on No. 18. Tiger Woods rebounded from Saturday's back-nine 39 with a Sunday 63 that left him in a fourth-place tie with Brendon de Jonge and Chris Kirk at 19 under.