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: Casey Wittenberg will certainly be better prepared for the PGA TOUR than in 2009, when he finished a distant 159th on the PGA TOUR money list. As No. 1 on the Web.com Tour money list, he'll be fully exempt this year and already is assured of a spot in THE PLAYERS Championship, so his quest is to take advantage of those opportunities.
2012 DEFINING MOMENTS: Another highly touted collegian, Wittenberg's first Web.com Tour victory came in his 85th start. He made sure it was memorable -- riding a third-round 63 to a four-stroke lead and eventually winning by a record-setting eight. Three months later, a week before winning his second Web.com Tour event, the Oklahoma State product tied for 10th at the U.S. Open, which has to be a confidence builder for 2013. – Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: Does Casey belong on the PGA TOUR? Let's see, he won twice on the Web.Com Tour and posted eight Top 10 finishes. I think that qualifies as ready. Casey turned professional in 2004 and his game has matured. He was the best player on the Web.com Tour and should now have a productive career in the big leagues. – Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: ... As I alluded to in my 2013 fantasy projections for Web.com Tour grads, he's a horse for courses, so plan accordingly. His added value is that he's exempt from the reshuffle and already in the field at THE PLAYERS. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
2012 QUICK REVIEW
Final money list ranking
|Best finish||1st 1st||Chitimacha Louisiana Open Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open|
|By the NumbersStarts: 24 Cuts made: 17 Rounds played: 82 Top-10 finishes: 8||Web.com Tour rankingDriving distance: 97th Driving accuracy: 28th Greens in regulation: 7th Putting average: 22nd Scoring average: 2nd|
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN What is your prediction for Casey Wittenberg in 2013? Fill out the form below and let us know
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO -- Casey Wittenberg gave the leaders some hope when he posted a 67 about an hour before the final group teed off.
The round of 3 under at The Olympic Club tied Hunter Hamrick for the low so far in the 112th U.S. Open. It was Wittenberg's best in five appearances in the national championship and marked the first time he had ever shot in the 60s.
"You always love shooting under par in a U.S. Open," the former Oklahoma State standout said. "... So it's something I can build on and hopefully I can play some good golf tomorrow."
When he finished, Wittenberg had climbed 39 spots up the
leaderboard to 5 over. He credited the solid performance to his
driving and well-played irons to "fairly receptive" greens thanks
to that early tee time.
"And I was fortunate enough to wiggle in some putts," Wittenberg said. "It's a hard golf course. You just got to keep everything out in front of you and just play golf. Take your opportunities when they come and fortunately today I hit some good iron shots that gave me some more opportunities than I had earlier in the week."
Wittenberg started with a bogey on Saturday but promptly got that shot back at the fourth hole. He answered another bogey at the sixth hole with an eagle on the driveable seventh where he rolled in a 20-footer that he said helped "get my round going."
Wittenberg then went on to finish strong -- making birdies on his last two holes. He said he was "lucky" the one at No. 17 found the cup on what he called "by far the fastest green we have on the golf course" or else he would have had a significant tester coming back. He then closed out his round by curving an 8-iron around a tree at the 18th hole that landed 20 feet from the pin.
"I had hit that putt in the practice round, so I had a pretty good idea of what it was going to do and I was able to make it," Wittenberg said.
Wittenberg won the Chitimacha Louisiana Open earlier this year on the Nationwide Tour and has two other top-10 finishes. He's looking forward to seeing it he can carry the momentum over into Sunday's final round.
"The course will play firmer for me tomorrow than it did today, which is nice in some ways, because the ball goes a long way off the tee but it's (harder) to keep the ball in the fairway because of it," Wittenberg said. "I'll have to get out there and do my thing and just try and hit golf shots and hopefully make some birdies."
Casey Wittenberg has the advantage of sleeping in his own bed this week -- he lives behind the driving range and in the opening round showed up just 45 minutes before his tee time. Then he went out and shot 30 over his first nine holes on his way to a 64.
Today has been a different story, though, for the 2003 U.S. Amateur runner-up. Starting on the more difficult front nine. Wittenberg is 1 over through seven holes with two bogeys and a birdie. The biggest difference? For one, he went off in the afternoon in the second round. The course is playing much more difficult than it was this morning when there was less wind and softer conditions. For another, his iron play hasn’t been as sharp -- Wittenberg has hit just three of seven greens in regulation so far. -- Brian Wacker
You don’t get to have much more of a home game than the one Casey Wittenberg does, not with Wittenberg living a couple hundred yards behind the driving range here at TPC Southwind.
“I’m familiar with all the looks of the holes, I’m familiar with where the ball needs to be,” said Wittenberg, whose father Jimmy Jr. caddies for him. “It’s just about execution from there.”
That execution for Wittenberg hasn’t exactly been there the last month or so on the Nationwide Tour, where he’s missed his last four cuts and has just one top-10 on the season. This week has been a different story, obviously, and Wittenberg credits that, at least in part, to having not qualified for the U.S. Open.
“I think I’m more relaxed in this tournament and no so worried about what’s going to happen next week,” said Wittenberg, who had qualified each of the last two year’s for the U.S. Open. “I hadn’t played well the last month or so on the Nationwide Tour, so my expectations are really kind of low.”
Expectations are something Wittenberg struggled with early in his career. After finishing second in the 2003 U.S. Amateur, Wittenberg went on to tie for 13th in the following year’s Masters and tie for 36th in the U.S. Open. After that, however, he bounced around the mini tours in 2006 and 2007 before finding his way to the Nationwide Tour in 2008, where he’s been ever since.
“I didn’t perform as well I wanted to or some of the people in my camp wanted me to,” said Wittenberg, whose father was an All-American at LSU. “The thing I struggled the most with is that I really never had an offseason before. After playing 30-something events, I really didn’t want to play [at q-school]. It was a big mistake on my part.
“I didn’t understand the importance of being ready to play. If I was more adapted to it ad ready to play, it might have been to my advantage.”
Of course, being ready to play can be overrated. Take this week, for example. Wittenberg didn’t play a single practice round at TPC Southwind and showed up to the course just 45 minutes before his tee time. That worked out pretty well on Thursday. -- Brian Wacker
Memphis native Casey Wittenberg knows everything there is to know about the River City, but he ventured to a place today he's never been before. Wittenberg posted a 6-under 64 in the first round of the St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind, which ties for his career low on the PGA TOUR.
Wittenberg opened his round with three birdies and an eagle in his first seven holes en route to an opening-nine 30. He rounded out the day with one more birdie on the par-4 first before finishing the day only one stroke back from current leader Lee Westwood.
The Oklahoma State alum and Nationwide Tour member is playing his first PGA TOUR event of the season, courtesy of a sponsor exemption. -- Ryan Pierce
Casey Wittenberg has a lot of course knowledge here at TPC Southwind. That’s because it’s the home course for the Memphis, Tenn., native, who is 5 under through his first eight holes and just two shots off the current lead.
The former Oklahoma State standout and runner-up at the 2003 U.S. Amateur has missed the cut in his last four starts on the Nationwide Tour, but he has played well on the back nine at TPC Southwind with two birdies and an eagle on the par-5 16th, where he hit it to 10 feet from 268 yards.
This is Wittenberg’s first start on the PGA TOUR this season. -- Ryan Pierce