For the second week in a row an American flirted with 59 on his way to victory as Nick Watney’s final round 61 saw him come from four shots back to win the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey fired 60 en route to winning the McGladrey Classic last week. Watney’s final round 61 was his career-best on TOUR as he posted 22-under-par 262 to win his second even of 2012. Co-54-hole leaders Bo Van Pelt and Robert Garrigus finished joint second on 263. Tiger Woods, Brendon de Jonge and Chris Kirk shared fourth place, three shots back of Watney on 265.
In the third edition of the CIMB Classic fans were treated to a master class on Sunday as Nick Watney fired his personal-best round on TOUR and set a course record on his way to his second win in his last six events. Watney was four shots behind as play started on Sunday but after eight birdies in his first 13 holes, he was more than in the tournament. He was the first player to hit 20-under and the only player, after birdies on three of his last four holes, to post 22-under. A lone bogey on Sunday on hole No. 18 was the only blemish on Watney’s card and kept him from joining the “59” club. Watney posted 30-31 for his 61 and would be even a bigger story if Tommy Gainey wouldn’t have posted 60 last week at the The McGladrey Classic!
What began as a quiet year for Nick Watney has ended with a flourish. He won’t be happy that his lull saw him left off the Ryder Cup team but he’ll be ecstatic that his game was in good enough shape to win twice and add a T10 in his last six starts. Watney has always been known as an excellent ball-striker but his putting was holding him back. Nothing held him back on the final three rounds at the CIMB Classic as he made 25 birdies, including 11 on Sunday. After opening with one birdie and one bogey for an even-par 71, Watney hit the afterburners for the rest of the week. He posted rounds of 65-65-61 which included 25 birdies and just four bogeys.
Watney, for the second year in a row has accumulated multiple victories on TOUR. For those of you who read this column regularly, one, thank you, and two, you know my fondness for Watney. He plays well on all styles of courses and obviously his game can travel. After winning twice and making 19 of 22 cuts in 2011, he’s made 23 of 26 cuts in 2012 and has amassed top 25 finishes in 12 of those. He’s now won six times on TOUR in his career. Next stop, winning a major championship! From a fantasy standpoint, his late season victories weren’t much help as most leagues wrap up with the PGA Championship. For the value he commands on draft day, more is expected of him for that price and more will be expected come 2013, especially in the majors. He’s just 31, which isn’t young and certainly isn’t old. Some would argue he should be entering the prime of his career. I will, as always, be keeping my eye on him as we head to 2013.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
In 44 weeks of stroke play tournaments, 29 third round leaders failed to lift the trophy in 2012 as Bo Van Pelt and Robert Garrigus adds their names to this massive list. Those boys had a one-shot lead over Chris Kirk entering the final round and it’s not like they played poorly as they both fired final round 66’s.
Nick Watney joins Bo Van Pelt (2011) and Ben Crane (2010) as the only winners of the CIMB Classic.
Nick Watney is the only winner to come-from-behind on Sunday. Crane and Van Pelt were 54-hole leaders.
Americans now have registered 33 victories in 44 events. Sadly, this list does NOT include the Ryder Cup.
Rory McIlroy (4), Tiger Woods (3), Zach Johnson (2), Jason Dufner (2), Hunter Mahan (2) and Brandt Snedeker (2) and now Nick Watney (2) are the multiple-winners on TOUR in 2012.
The only foreign-born players to win in 2012 are Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (Honda, PGA, DBC and BMW), Englishmen Justin Rose (WGC-CC) and Luke Donald (Transitions), Swedes Carl Pettersson (RBC Heritage) and Jonas Blixt (Frys.com), Australia’s Marc Leishman (the Travelers), South African Ernie Els (The Open) join Spain’s Sergio Garcia (Wyndham).
Watney collects $1,300,000 for his sixth-career TOUR victory.
“Young” Guns versus “Middle” Guns versus “Old” Guns
In 45 events on TOUR in 2012 the “Young” guns have it all locked up at the top as they now lead 25-17-3 as the 31-year old Watney wins this week in Malaysia.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker TWICE (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy FOUR times (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), Nick Watney TWICE (31),Ryan Moore (29) and Jonas Blixt (28) 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) J.J. Henry (37) and now Tommy Gainey (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! Tom Gillis gave the old folks hope after his opening round 65 but he wilted with 73 in the final round.
Bo Van Pelt: The defending champion was the 54-hole leader for the second year in a row. Unlike last year, he couldn’t finish the job. I can’t blame a guy who fired 66 in the final round and who made 28 (T1) for the week. He didn’t lose, he got beat. Van Pelt needed birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff but it wasn’t to be. He’s probably not thrilled that he ended his quest for 59 on Saturday with a double-bogey, his second of the week, but he’s been on fire lately. In the last two weeks, Van Pelt has won and finished T2. In his last four events he’s finished WIN, T2, T10 and T10. His amazing 2012 consisted of making 20 of 24 cuts, 16 top 25’s and 10 top 10’s. He was the landlord of this column in 2012 as his 10 top 10’s were the most on TOUR this season. Oh, and he’s automatic first pick for me again next year if he enters this event as he’s WIN, T2 in his two tournaments here.
Robert Garrigus: For the FOURTH time in 2012, Garrigus found himself as runner-up as he couldn’t hold a 54-hole lead for the second time this year (RBC Canadian). Again, it’s hard to fault a guy who fired 66 on Sunday and made 27 birdies for the week. Garrigus also had a very solid four tournament finish to 2012 as he found himself T4 (BMW), T10 (the TOUR Championship), T22 (Timberlake) and T2 this week. I inexplicably missed Garrigus in my preview. I’m not sure how I left off a guy who had been playing well and has no problem playing in events where guys have to go low and make tons of birdies.
Tiger Woods: If you would have told me before the week started that Woods would lead the tournament in birdies, I would have told you he would have won. Instead, it was another rough back nine on a weekend that stopped Woods from collecting his fourth win of the season. On Saturday, after going out in 30, Woods lost the plot on the back nine as he fired 39 on a day where everyone was going low. This round put him five behind Garrigus and Van Pelt heading into Sunday. The good news for Woods was his bogey-free 63 on Sunday. He’s not automatic anymore but it’s hard to argue with a guy who’s finished third, T4, T8 and T4 in his last four starts of the year. He will take on Rory McIlroy, who finished second at the BMW Masters in China Sunday, in a made-for-internet golf match Monday in Zhengzhou.
Brendon de Jonge: He’s been automatic in his last three tournaments and I hope you’ve been riding him. His 26 birdies made this week will add to his TOUR-leading total for 2012. Those birdies over his last three tournaments have seen him finish second, T4 and T4 again this week. After making the cut in 26 of 30 starts, which included 10 top 25’s, the next step for de Jonge is obviously hitting the winner’s circle. In his career, he’s made 100 cuts in 147 events.
Chris Kirk: After finishing T13 here last year, Kirk was happy to see the MINES Resort again in 2012. Kirk came into this tournament under the radar after at T36 finish at the Timberlake and T64 last week at The McGladrey Classic but he obviously loves this course. He tied his season-low round on Saturday with 63 as he’s showing his comfortable with his game after the birth of his first child earlier this season.
Carl Pettersson: He joined the go-low crew on Sunday as he rattled off 10 birdies against one bogey to post 62 and finish solo seventh. His 62 matched his opening round at the Wydham Championship for his low-round of the year and saw him jump up 12 spots as he started they day T19. The last time we saw Pettersson was the FedExCup Playoffs where his best start in the four events was T20 at the TOUR Championship. Good to see a long layoff doesn’t bother him! Pettersson likes it here as he’s finished T15 (2010), T37 (2011) and T7 this year.
Jbe Kruger: This was his first top 10 in 21 starts since his victory at the Avantha Masters in late February. The 26-year-old South African has only one career victory and is currently ranked No. 181 in the OWGR. Good spot if you decided to play him this week. I surely didn’t see that coming! Oh, and if anyone knows how to pronounce his name properly, please pass it along!
Pat Perez: This was Perez’s first time out in this event and my guess, after 26 birdies, would be he likes it here! Maybe the heat reminds him of the desert where he usually goes low! This is only his second top 10 of 2012 and his first since May at the Byron Nelson so it’s no surprise he wasn’t on my radar this week. His last three events were the first three of the FedExCup Playoffs and his best finish T26 at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Scott Piercy: Each week, there is a guy that will ask “what if”. This week, Piercy will be carrying that banner after his opening round 75 (+4). There was only ONE round worse than that all week, 77 from Scott Hend. Piercy, not daunted, knew there was no cut and managed to persevere to close with rounds of 68-64-62. He was 16-under on the weekend. That alone would have been good enough for solo ninth! What if! In his two October starts, Piercy was T6 in Las Vegas and backs that up with T10 this week.
Kevin Na: Na adds another top 10 to his previous six in 2012, but it’s his first since The Greenbrier Classic in early July stretching over seven events. Na had a quiet playoffs and even a stop in his hometown of Las Vegas could only coax a T22 out of him. Na last played here in 2010 and finished T21 so he likes what he sees in Malaysia.
Brian Harman: Bombs away, young fella. He made 17 of his 23 birdies in rounds one and three but only found three more on Sunday to drop from sixth to T10. His best finish of 2012 was his T5 at the Barclays to kick off the FedExCup Playoffs so this gives him his second top 10 in his last six events. Good momentum!
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
Ben Crane: The 2010 champ was 14-under and finished T14. In three starts at the MINES, Crane has finished WIN, T20 and now T14. I’d say he also likes the heat here. Between this event and the McGladrey, Crane should be on your list in permanent marker.
S.Y. Noh: He improved on his T36 finish from last year with T14 this year. He fired an opening round 71, same as Nick Watney, and still found his way up the leaderboard. Next step for this young superstar is winning and Sean Foley will help him do that in 2013. Pay attention!
Jason Dufner: After his T10 finish here last year and finishing second last week to Bo Van Pelt, Dufner was always going to be on the list. Hell, he should be on the list any time he enters a tournament! His second round 72 set him back but he followed that Saturday with 64 to get right back into the mix. His 67 on Sunday saw him finish T16. S
Coming Tuesday: The WGC-HSBC Champions and Golf Channel Fantasy Picks