American Nick Watney returned to the winner’s circle after catching and passing Spain’s Sergio Garcia on Sunday at the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. to win The Barclays. Watney began the day two shots behind last week’s winner at the Wyndham and came from behind to win for the third time in five career starts. Garcia could not match Tiger Woods (2009 Buick Open and WGC-BI) as the last player to win consecutive events on TOUR. Watney was the story on Sunday as he birdied seven, eight and ten to get to 11-under-par to hold a four-shot lead. Bogeys at 11 and 12 brought Garcia within two but Watney’s shaky putter made just enough putts down the stretch to hold on for his first-career FedExCup victory. Watney posted 10-under 274 for his fifth-career TOUR victory and first since his win at the 2011 AT&T National. American Brandt Snedeker birdied 18 to move into solo second at seven-under-par 277. Garica bogeyed 18 to slip into T3 with American Dustin Johnson at six-under-par 278.
2011 must have felt like a lifetime ago to Nick Watney in 2012. Last year, Watney made the cut in 19 of 22 events. He finished in the top 25 a whopping 16 times and that also included 10 top 10’s. His two victories last year, WGC-CC and AT&T National, came before the playoffs. After disappointing in the Playoffs last year, Watney finished second in his home town of Las Vegas at the Justin Timberlake Shriners. He went on to play on the winning side in the President’s Cup and looked primed and ready for another huge year in 2012.
And then putts stopped dropping.
In 2011, Watney ranked seventh on TOUR in total putting, including 12th in strokes gained. What a difference an off-season makes as in 2012 Watney currently ranks 120th in total putting and 122nd in strokes gained. Watney has never struggled with length off the tee or hitting GIR but in 2012 the putter was his biggest let down. He finally hit the top 10 in a full-field, stroke-play event in May, his 11th event, as he finished solo eighth at WFC. The low point of his season followed his best finish at WFC. Watney followed that with T56 at THE PLAYERS, 72ND at Colonial and MC at the Memorial. Fantasy owners were done; Watney was just beginning. In his next seven starts, Watney’s ball-striking gave him enough chances that he made six cuts, finishing no worse that T31 in that stretch. He found T21 at the U.S. Open and T23 at The Open Championship so we all saw him getting close. After MC at the PGA Championship and T31 last week, it was understandable how Watney might have been omitted from the discussion with this week’s powerful field.
Watney didn’t play or putt perfectly this week but it won’t mention that on his trophy. Watney made a tournament-leading 23 birdies this week and was spectacular on Sunday hitting 17 of 18 greens. He finished the week T2 GIR and T15 driving accuracy but the most telling stat was that Watney’s putter cooperated when it needed to on Sunday afternoon as he rolled in a couple of gutty par putts to hang on and win. Sure he three putted five times but he finished T16 strokes gained-putting for the week. His victory and also gave Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III another headache before his wild card selections are made.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Sergio Garcia became the 24th player to hold 54-hole lead in 37 stroke-play events this season and not go on to close out the tournament. Ironically, he was the 54-hole leader last week when he closed out at the Wyndham Championship. What a difference a week makes.
Tiger Woods (3), Jason Dufner (2), Hunter Mahan (2) and Zach Johnson (2) end the regular season as the only multiple winners on TOUR this year. American players have dominated on TOUR this year and Nick Watney’s win makes it 29 victories in 38 events. The only foreign-born players to win in 2012 are Rory McIlroy (Honda and now the PGA), Justin Rose (WGC-CC), Luke Donald (Transitions), Carl Pettersson (RBC Heritage), Marc Leishman (the Travelers), South African Ernie Els (The Open) and Spain’s Sergio Garcia (Wyndham).
This was the first event in 10 on TOUR that was not delayed by weather. Thank you Mother Nature.
There have only been five first-time winners on TOUR in 2012: Kyle Stanley, John Huh, Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman and Ted Potter, Jr.
With this victory, Watney collects $1,440,000, 2500 FedExCup points and now is in first place in the FedExCup Playoffs after one event. Next week, the top 100 players move on to the TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts for the Deutsche Bank Championship in the second of four FedExCup Playoff events.
“Young” Guns versus “Middle” Guns versus “Old” Guns
In 38 events on TOUR in 2012 the “Young” guns are opening up a lead thanks to victories in the past weeks by Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and now Nick Watney (31). As the Playoffs continue, the “Young” guns start to pull away at 19-16-3.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy TWICE (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26), Marc Leishman (29), Ted Potter, Jr. (28), Scott Stallings (27), Keegan Bradley (26), Sergio Garcia (32) and Nick Watney (32) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods THRICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35), Zach Johnson TWICE (36), Scott Piercy (33) and J.J. Henry (37) have been victorious.
Steve Stricker (44), Phil Mickelson (41) and Ernie Els (42) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012. At least 33% of their wins are majors! Old man Westwood (T5) gave the “Old” folks their best chance this week.
Brandt Snedeker: This week he was back to his best on and around the greens at the Black Course. After just finishing T33 in GIR, Snedeker’s putter was the club that kept him in contention all week. He finished third in strokes-gained putting and was not out of the top 12 in any of the three putting categories. Snedeker thrived at Royal Lytham & St. Annes at the British Open and played well here at a former U.S. Open set-up. Hard courses don’t bother him obviously! His almost 16-foot birdie on 18 on Sunday ended up putting him in second place alone after Garcia made bogey. He didn’t know it at the time but that was a $420,000 putt…Snedeker gained 1500 FedExCup points and is now currently in second position with three remaining events. He was the only player to break par in all four rounds this week.
Sergio Garcia: When he plays well, he plays well in buckets as evidence by his back-to-back wins in Spain last October. Garcia, who was a favorite heading into this week on the back of his excellent ball-striking, ran out of gas as Sunday wore on. He made four bogeys in his final 11 holes and didn’t make a birdie in that stretch. His putter, usually his Achilles Heel, helped on No. 17 as he rolled in a 15 footer to have a chance standing on 18 tee trailing by two. He missed the fairway and the green and his two putts saw him fall out of T2 into T3. Garcia’s ball-striking was on point again this week as he was T3 in fairways and T4 GIR. His putting was excellent as well throughout the week as his pencil-grip style saw him finish 14th in strokes-gained putting but he only made one birdie on Sunday with a two-shot lead. You won’t have to toss and turn over Garcia next week as he has already announced he’s not playing at the Deutche Bank Championship. Garcia moved up 23 spots to No. 10 on the list with his finish this week.
Dustin Johnson: Johnson, who was last year’s champion at this rain-shorten event, was back to work this week on the East Coast. Johnson has been no worse than T15 in four events at The Barclays. His length was always going to be an advantage on this track and he took advantage of it as he finished seventh in GIR. Johnson went out three-under-par on the front nine on Sunday to get it to six-under-par but two bogeys on the back, including one on 17, saw his charge fall just short. Johnson will be kicking himself because he threw away four shots on Saturday with a pair of double bogeys. Knock those four shots off and who knows what happens. The point is Johnson was very close this week and should not be dismissed easily in the coming weeks due to his power and GIR. Johnson moves into eighth place in the FedExCup standings.
Graham DeLaet: One of the men on the outside looking in when the week began, DeLaet took full opportunity this weekend to make the most of his chance to get into the top 100 and advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship next week in Boston. After getting off to an rough start (75) DeLaet rallied on Friday to shoot a bogey-free 33 on the back to make the cut at even-par. Saturday saw him shoot out of the blocks and make the turn at three-under before he limped home in 39 for 72. Sunday looked like it was going to be curtains for the Canadian, who entered the week at No. 106, as he bogeyed Nos. 4 and 5 to fall to three-over. DeLaet, who was 10th in driving distance and 32nd in GIR on TOUR, rallied to fire eight-under over his final 13 holes not only to make the top 100, but he ended up finishing T5 as he posted the lowest round of the day, 65. DeLaet jumped from No. 106 to No. 44 in the FedExCup standings and now is playing with house’s money for the next two tournaments. This is his best finish since his T4 at the Zurich Classic at the end of April.
Louis Oosthuizen: Another player known for his ball-striking played his part this week finishing T5 at the Black Course. He has no problem getting it down the fairway and his sweet swing was on display again this week. The South African was first GIR and was in the top 15 in both driving categories so he lived up to his billing. The flat stick let him down as he was 46th or worse in all three putting categories. Oosthuizen’s last four starts on TOUR have been T19 (U.S. Open), fourth (WGC-BI), T21 (PGA) and T5 this week. He’s been nice and steady and is now 21st on the points list. He’s shown plenty in the last two months that he’s ready to be included in the conversation if he’s in the field.
Lee Westwood: Always in the preview column but rarely in The Takeaway, Westwood returns this week after his T5 was his best result on TOUR since his T5 at WFC in early May. Westwood’s up-and-down season came to a head last week as Westwood fired his temporary caddy and swing coach as he was looking for a spark entering the Playoffs. Well, that worked! Westwood excels on tracks where par is an excellent score and this week was no different. He finished the week T4 GIR but his tee ball and putter were lagging behind. Westwood put together four-under on the weekend which saw him hit the top 10 for the first time in five events (U.S. Open) on TOUR. That’s why you didn’t read about him in Range Rover last week. Now, I’ll have to reconsider his chances moving forward.
Brian Harman: He began the week in the “danger zone” as he was No. 97. He got off to a fantastic start as he lit up the Black Course for 65 on Thursday and held on the rest of the weekend to finish T5 (-5). His T5 moved him up to No. 41 and now he can start dreaming about hitting the top 30 (the TOUR Championship) instead of having nightmares about not qualifying for next week. Harman’s strength is his driving and his game around the greens. This week, his putter cooperated as he finished the week 13th in strokes gained-putting. He needed it as he was only T56 GIR and 72nd in sand saves for the week. Harman has now made six of his last seven cuts but this was the biggest field he’s played against since MC at the U.S. Open.
Greg Chalmers: Have putter, will travel. Chalmers is known in the golfing world as being an excellent putter that was on full demonstration this week. His accurate driving (T7) led to hitting only 55.6% of greens (T70). Chalmers was first in putts per round, second in putts per GIR and was 11th in strokes gained-putting. Just get it on the green, man! This was Chalmers first top 10 (T9) in 23 starts in 2012. After winning twice late in 2011 in Australia, Chalmers, who lives in Texas, was expected to have a break-out season. He just might after all if he keeps hitting top 10’s in the playoffs. He vaults to No. 38 in the standings for next week.
Bud Cauley: Cauley rang up his fourth visit to the top 10 in his last five events with a bogey-free (wow) 67 on Sunday. How he played THAT course without a bogey is fantastic and he was the only one on Sunday! Cauley, in only his first 14 months on TOUR, has amassed eight top 10’s already. His MC in that stretch was the PGA Championship so that’s acceptable. Cauley’s putter was his calling card this week as he finished in the top eight in all three putting categories. He also finished T2 in sand saves so his short game was cooking. He’s now moved into the top 30 (26th) and knows he has two more weeks to solidify that position. Not bad for a kid who turned pro last year at the U.S. Open!
Luke Donald: Nothing against Mr. Donald but this was essentially more of the same from him. He struggled to hit fairways and greens, again, but his trusty putter put more money in his bank account this week. Donald returns to the top 12 (T10) for the sixth time in his last eight events on TOUR. There’s no point fighting it; I’m putting him in my list each week especially if he continues to be fifth in strokes gained-putting. His worst finishes in his last eight events are the U.S. Open (MC) and the PGA (T32).
Bubba Watson: Another event, another top 23 or better (T10). What an amazing run from the 2012 Masters champion this season as he has made the cut in 14 of 16 events and has 14 top 25’s. His worst finish this season when making the cut was T23 at The Open Championship. Say it with me again: Automatic. How did Bubba Watson do it this week? Good question. He was sixth in driving distance but was only T26 in GIR. That’s borderline bad for Watson as he is first on TOUR in that stat. Watson’s putter though did just enough to secure another top 10 finish as he was in the top half in two of the three putting categories. He’s found balance and peace in his life and his golf game is flourishing because of it. Bravo, Bubba Watson!
Tim Clark: You almost forgot how good he was when he was healthy but he’s showing that he’s close to being back to that 2010 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP form as he had another top 10 this week (T10). How close is he? Well, when everyone else was complaining that the Black Course was unplayable on Saturday, Clark rattled off eight birdies to fire 67 and get right into the tournament. Long courses, short courses, wet or dry courses, Clark has shown he can compete on all of them. In his last four events on TOUR, he’s been T15, T11, second last week and T10 this week. That’s hot and there’s no point in jumping off now!
Also making the top 10 but guys that were probably not on your radar this week included David Hearn, who jumped from No. 108 to 67 and will be on the bubble AGAIN next week. Tom Gillis, William McGirt, Bob Estes and Kevin Stadler also solidified their positions heading into Crooked Stick in FedExCup III.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
Tiger Woods: Another great start, another fade on the weekend. He played his best golf of the week after he tweaked his back on Friday but his game melted again on the weekend. His six over par dropped him from the top 10 to T38 and his worst finish since MC at the Greenbrier. He’s playing every Playoff event and his back didn’t look like it was anything serious so he’ll be lurking next week in Boston I would believe.
Rory McIlroy: I didn’t think he could follow up his runaway PGA Championship with too much this week but the youngster managed to beat Woods and finish T24. That’s what great players do. They find a way to ring the bell even when they are not on their best. He’ll be in the mix for the next three events and probably the favorite heading to Boston.
Carl Pettersson: His streak of steady play continued with a T24 finish as well. That’s seven cuts in a row made for Petterson and his worst finish in that stretch is T36.
Phil Mickelson: New weekend putting grip, same weekend results. Since finishing T7 at HPBNC, Mickelson in seven events has a WD, two MC’S, and his best finish is T36. His 76 on Sunday, like Woods, saw him drop 28 places to T38. Those of you who played him early on the west coast in 2012 were the smart ones this fantasy season.
Those whose bubbles burst and those who survived the drama
Jonas Blixt: Started No.101 but his T46 moved him to No. 97.
Tommy Gainey: Started No. 102 yet punched in T38 to move to No. 91.
Bob Estes: Started No. 103 and hit the top 10 to move up to No. 62 and an excellent chance to make it to Crooked Stick.
Kevin Chappell: Started No. 104 and MC. He’s gone.
Davis Love III: Started No. 105 and MC. Yep, him too.
Graham DeLaet: Started No. 106 and you already know how that story ended.
David Hearn: Started No. 108 and finished T10 to jump to No. 67 and a chance to advance to Crooked Stick as well.
The final player in the bottom 125 to make it was No. 113 Jason Day as he fired 66 on
Sunday to jump up to T24 and will get to play one more week as he’s currently No. 88. He’ll need another top 25 or so next week to keep moving on!
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with TheGolfNewsNet.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON, ET. They will be breaking down the field at the The Deutsche Bank Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.