By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Nick Watney knows it can be done.
All he has to do is think about where he was this time last year -- and how he turned his season around during the FedExCup Playoffs.
Watney ranked 46th a year ago when the four-event race to the $10 million bonus began at Bethpage State Park's famed Black Course. He'd only posted three top-10 finishes in 21 starts, the last one coming in his title defense at the AT&T National nearly two months earlier.
Things changed at The Barclays, though, when Watney closed with a 69 and beat Brandt Snedeker by three strokes. The win was the fifth of Watney's career and helped propel him to a fourth-place finish in the FedExCup. He also won the unofficial CIMB Classic in October.
So Watney would like nothing better than to begin a similar turnaround this week as The Barclays returns to Liberty National, where Watney tied for sixth in 2009. The lanky Californian has only had two top-10s in 2013 -- and he's missed six cuts in the 10 events since he tied for 10th at the Wells Fargo Championship, including his last two starts.
"The season was pretty tough and definitely not what I was looking for this year," Watney acknowledged. "But having said all that, last year wasn't the greatest regular season for me, anyway, either, and end up winning a couple times at the end of the year.
"So that's what I'm hoping for, and with the format the way it is, if you get hot at the right time, you can play all the way through Atlanta and have a whole lot to play for. So trying to get on track and hopefully lightning will strike twice."
Watney says he can't point to any single thing that has held him back this year. Putting, though, appears to be an issue with Watney ranked 149th in strokes gained putting, 126th in birdies and 123rd in scoring average.
"I know the last, say, three months, I've been putting very poorly, which even if you strike the ball well, and you don't putt well, it's hard to make any kind of score," Watney said. "So I would say that is the biggest reason why I've had a down season."
Two years ago, though, when Watney won twice and had eight other top-10 finishes, he ranked 12th in strokes gained putting and fifth in birdies and scoring average. So he knows it can be done, just like a potential late-season turnaround.
"It's just a matter of getting back to the basics and really I guess making that a focus," Watney said. "I've kind of been going through a few swing changes and maybe not really putting in the time and the right amount of energy into my short game. So that will be definitely an area I'll address right now and going forward."
Watney has also started working with a new instructor, Todd Anderson, who is based in Sea Island, Ga. He says he likes what Anderson has to say about his swing, and he's looking forward to the collaboration in the months to come.
"I would say there's some stuff that feels new to me," Watney said. "It's not an overhaul or I don't think I need to take a year off or anything. But it's a bit of refining maybe. I think he's a really good communicator. I'm excited in the near future, getting to play obviously, but in the off season having some time to really get into it and hit the ground running next season."