Nick Watney is finishing his 2012 season with one final strong performance.
The 1999 Davis High graduate shot a 1-under 71 on Saturday in Tiger Woods’ World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks.
Watney was in seventh place at 6-under par after the third round, trailing leader Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland by eight shots. McDowell had carried a three-stroke advantage into Saturday after Watney led at the end of Thursday’s first round at 5-under par.
Woods shot a 3-under par 68 on Saturday to stay in the hunt and finish the day at 8-under for the tournament.
For most of the 18 highly ranked players at Sherwood, the Challenge serves as the end-of-the-year stop before the holidays and short offseason. The 2013 PGA Tour season begins again in early January for the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui.
Watney is bringing to an end what has proved to be an up-and-down 2012 campaign.
After a career year in 2011, during which he posted 10 top-10 finishes, last season was a quiet one until the former Blue Devils started a hot streak in August by winning the The Barclays, the PGA Tour’s first of four playoff events. Watney then went on to grab his first overseas victory at the unofficial CIMB Classic in Malaysia in October.
That victory included an impressive 10-under par 61 in the final round that vaulted him past the likes of Woods, who also went low with a final round 63 that left him in fourth place, four shots behind Watney.
Although his son’s year has been unpredictable, Brent Watney, Nick’s father, enjoys watching the process.
“(I like) watching him fight out there,” said the proud dad. “I know he gets frustrated but look at it this way, what else could you be doing (for a career)?”
Indeed the bigger picture gives Brent Watney a sense of relief. He and his wife Debbie are at the tournament this week cheering on their son. After making the drive from their home in Dixon through Santa Barbara, where they enjoyed a couple of days with friends earlier this week, then made it to the World Challenge to watch their son’s third trip straight appearance in this exclusive event.
Brent calls the Maui event his favorite of the entire year, not just because of the beautiful location, but more importantly because it means that his son has won the year before.
Knowing that Nick is set for the next year is important to his father, who has watched his son progress from his career at Davis High School and later at Fresno State Bulldog in the early 2000s. Brent is affectionately nicknamed by his son as the “worry wart” of the family, but Nick also admits that golf is a game of uncertainty.
Even now, as he finishes his eighth season, Nick Watney reflects back on his first years on the PGA Tour and admits that he had to stay driven in order to stay out here and keep his PGA Tour card.
“I didn’t want to take anything for granted,” he said. “I wanted to keep improving, even now, keep grinding and keep trying to get better so that I’ll never rest on having made it or anything like that.”
Perhaps it was that attitude this season, through its early frustrations, that kept him driven to eventually win again, which he did emphatically over one of the strongest fields of the year at The Barclays and in sizzling fashion in Malaysia.
“Winning is what drives us,” Watney said. “It’s the funnest part of the game. So I’d like to stay in contention as much as possible and the wins will come after that.”
The hard-working Watney is always trying to move forward with his craft.
“Im definitely not where I’d like to be in some aspects of my game,” Watney said. “Short game specifically. I’m looking forward to getting some good work in (during the offseason), taking it easy somewhat, and also continuing to get better.”
Watney and his wife Amber, who live in Las Vegas, are planning to visit her family in Austin, Texas before heading back to California to celebrate Christmas.
— 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.