Nick Watney has winning on his mind this year on the PGA Tour.
In one of the hardest individual sports one can play, the 1999 Davis High graduate is finding that a simple approach to each day and each golf shot may be his best way to return to the coveted winner’s circle. The 32-year-old’s last win came in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in October of 2012.
This new 2013-14 wrap-around Tour season technically started in October. Watney played in three events on the 2013 side of the season and this week he tees it up for the second time on the 2014 side. Last week he finished tied for 59th at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, an event he won in 2009.
“I feel like I’m making progress with my game,” Watney said. “Last week wasn’t the result I wanted but I figure that’s going to happen. But I’m very excited and I’m really looking forward to playing a few tournaments and seeing how I go.”
Watney fired a 2-under 69 on Thursday and is tied for 40th in this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.
The conditions in the Arizona desert have been comfortable with a high of 74 degrees on Thursday.
“I think the course is in great shape,” Watney said. “Scores are going to be fairly low but if you go out and just try to make birdies you could end up going the wrong way in a hurry. So it’s about the first hole, first shot, and then see what happens.”
Watney also enjoyed pristine weather in San Diego. Last Monday, he had a chance to partake in surfing, a hobby he enjoys but doesn’t believe he does well …
“I’m definitely not good at it. Sometimes when I’m out (on the road) I figure I’m a decent player and it’s really hard to improve a couple of shots a week,” Watney said. “I feel like when I’m surfing I can improve a lot in a short amount of time. So it’s fun to try new stuff, it’s a pretty cleansing thing. You’re out there in nature, in the waves.”
Watney also is looking to improve on the course this season — in the form of wins.
“I’d definitely like to win once, maybe twice, maybe three times,” Watney said. “That would be the ultimate goal and so that’s what I’m going for.”
To put himself in position to do that each week, the former Blue Devil thinks a simple thought process will be the best way to focus.
“For me, it’s to think about it as little as possible,” Watney explained. “Just to play the first hole the first day and go from there. Some guys can think about winning right away before they tee off. I can’t do that and perform my best.”
At this weekend’s tournament, he trails the leaders Y.E. Yang and 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson by five strokes as both set the pace at 7-under par at TPC Scottsdale on Thursday.
Watney’s 2014 season includes a unique addition to the schedule: He and his wife Amber are expecting their first child in March.
“We’re really excited, it’s a life-changing thing,” Watney said. “We’ve studied up some books and talked to people. We think we know (what to do) but we probably don’t, but we’re really excited.”
Watney takes a measured approach to how his profession fits in the context of his family.
“Golf is not life, so you’ve gotta live life first,” Watney said. “Family is the most important thing so I’ll just have to work smarter and not necessarily have as many hours.”
— Garrett Johnston is a freelance golf writer based in Sacramento. He has been covering the PGA Tour for the past nine years, and has followed Watney closely for the past four.