Las Vegas, Nevada (March 14, 2011)–It was only a matter of time before a PGA Tour golfer with strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses won a tournament in 2011. Nick Watney became the first when he played a brilliant final round en route to a win at the World Golf Championships–Cadillac Championship at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral. Watney bested Dustin Johnson by two shots. Both Watney and Johnson work with Las Vegas Golf Region resident Butch Harmon. Now Watney is being mentioned as one of the best golfers on the PGA Tour. –By Brian Hurlburt.
"With the victory, which was his seventh top-10 in a row dating back to last year's TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola, Watney has put himself squarely in the conversation as one of the best young players in the game," wrote Helen Ross at PGATour.com. And with each top 10 finish, he and his caddie, Chad Reynolds, go another week without a hair cut. Click now for an explanation of that.
Watney is one of about 30 pros who have strong ties to Las Vegas golf courses and is the first in 2011 to win a trophy, but most likely not the last. Many of the pros can be seen playing and practicing at Las Vegas golf courses. Watney works with Harmon at his school which is located at Las Vegas' Rio Secco Golf Club, a resort Las Vegas golf course designed by Rees Jones. The course is also home to the beautiful T-mates female caddies. Other pros with ties to Las Vegas golf courses are Charley Hoffman, Chris Riley, Dean Wilson, Kevin Na and many others.
Watney played collegiately at Fresno State University and it was then that he began his working relationship with Harmon. The two have worked together for several years and Watney has become one of the most consistent drivers on the PGA Tour. But this year, Watney is nearly a stone cold lock with the putter. Watney ranks third on the PGA Tour in overall putting–first from 15-25 feet–and is also first in scoring average (68.85) and in the overall ranking. In 2010, he was 49th in putting and recorded a scoring average of 70.29 (24th). With all of this heady stuff, Watney is intent on staying focused on execution and letting others decide how he ranks among the game's elite players.
"I feel like all I can do is try to keep improving, hopefully keep winning tournaments," Watney told the media after the final round. "The World Rankings are what they are. I mean, it's cliché, it's very cliché, but that's not why I play. I play for feelings like this. If one day you guys decide that, then I'll be honored, but that's not — I don't really think about that." Watney fired a final-round 67 while Johnson ended with a 71. The two are good friends and sometimes practice together at the Harmon School. Harmon told Ross that this win will be very big for Watney.
"It's a springboard in confidence because you win a tournament and you win a tournament of this magnitude against this field," Harmon said. "It has nothing to do with the money or the name of the tournament but against this field, when you win it gives you a tremendous amount of confidence. It makes you realize you belong. It makes you realize you are just as good or better than any of them — and that's huge."
Watney said it was the defining moment of his golf career to this point. And he also credited his success to a new mental approach to putting that he has fine tuned while practicing at the Harmon school which is minutes from his home in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas. "My putting has been — that's where I really feel like I've made strides," said Watney. "I work on that. Butch will watch that. But mostly mentally, I work with Morris Pickens, and he's helped me just to develop a process that the goal is that the putts I hit practicing out at Butch's place in Las Vegas mean the same as the putt on 18, which obviously isn't true. But if you can think that way, it makes it a lot easier to putt when you're under pressure. So that's what I've been working on mostly. It hasn't been mechanical; it's been more my mental approach." Watney quotes courtesy of ASAPSports.com.