After tying for 11th place at Tiger Woods’ invite-only World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Nick Watney will take just a short break before starting his next season on the PGA Tour next month.
2013 will be the ninth season that Watney is on tour as a full-time member, not bad for the former Davis High star and Fresno State Bulldog, who gained his first PGA Tour victory back in 2007 in New Orleans.
Watney, who shot a 1-over 73 on Sunday at Sherwood, enters his brief offseason at his home in Las Vegas as golf’s 17th-ranked player in the world. The Dixon native is set to return to PGA Tour competition at next month’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui.
For each of his eight seasons on tour, Watney has been fortunate enough to work with Butch Harmon, one of golf’s most iconic teachers.
Harmon currently works with other top-ranked players such as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. In the past, he famously worked with Tiger Woods during Woods’ dominant stretch of play in the early 2000s.
Watney feels fortunate to be learning from one of the most recognizable coaches in the game.
“Butch has been huge for my career,” Watney said. “I honestly believe he’s the best teacher in the world. I don’t know if I could have been able to do the things I’ve done without him.”
In 2012, Watney added to his list of accomplishments while working with Harmon by winning The Barclays at a long and daunting Bethpage State Park course in Farmingdale, N.Y.
The field for The Barclays was one of the strongest assembled last season as it included the world’s two top-ranked players at that time, Rory McIlroy and Woods, among others.
For his part, Harmon greatly enjoys working with Watney. The practice area that he uses for his pupils sits only two miles away from Watney’s Las Vegas home.
“He’s one of the nicest young men you will ever meet,” Harmon said. “I love being around Nick. He’s so much fun, he’s a perfect gentleman, he’s got a great passion for the game of golf.”
It’s that passion that has gotten the former Blue Devil, who used to call Davis Municipal his home course, to a total of five PGA Tour wins so far in his career, as well as an unofficial international victory in Malaysia in October.
The quiet and unassuming Watney has steadily built a strong relationship with his coach over the years and Harmon can appreciate Watney’s humble approach toward others.
“Nick Watney knows how good he is,” Harmon said, “But you’d never know that by listening to him and watching him. He’s a very nice person, he signs autographs, he talks with everybody. He’s a great kid.”
Maybe a kid to the 69-year-old Harmon but Watney, a 1999 DHS grad who is now 31, is entering what most golf journalists and players call the prime of one’s career: the early to mid-30s.
And with Harmon at his side, there should be no limit to what Watney can accomplish in 2013.
— Garrett Johnston is a sports writer and video producer based in Sacramento. He has been covering the PGA Tour for the past eight years, and has followed Watney closely for the past three.