This was a pretty amazing weekend for golf fans.
On the PGA Tour, Nick Watney took control of The Barclays at Bethpage Black and won his first tournament of the year and first since Tiger’s tournament, the AT&T National at Aronimink in July of 2011.
What made it special was that he played head-to-head against a resurgent Sergio Garcia and actually had a putt late on the back nine to go up by four strokes. He missed and later made a bogey on 16, but by that time, Sergio was just not able to match all the promise of his first three rounds and faded to a 75. And hard charging Brandt Snedeker, who finished 2nd, just ran out of holes.
Watney shot 2-under 69 to win by three strokes and looked to be in command of the tournament the whole back nine even though he matched three birdies with three bogeys. Everyone else was having a tough time on the greens too and, except for Snedeker, going backwards.
And just to get a sense of how amped up a Tour player gets while trying to win a tournament, here’s his answer to the first question in the media center which dealt with what his general reaction was aside from shaking his head in dismay the whole way over to the media center:
I’m just very, very happy right now. It’s been not quite the year I would have wanted, but this really — you know, this really makes it all forgotten.
And today was — this course, winning a tournament is hard, but winning out here and against this field was very, very difficult. I’m kind of still on a high right now. I’m still kind of ready to play the next hole.
I was just trying to stay very in the moment out there, and crossing the holes off after I got done; I’m kind of ready to — I’m not really sure what to do right now. Just so excited and very, very proud.
Trying to flush out why his year hadn’t gone as well as he would have wanted, he was asked if the problem was physical or mental. He talked about not hitting the ball very well in the beginning of the year, and then this:
Mentally, I definitely started pressing a little bit. You know, Thursday, Friday, Saturday rounds became really, really important to me and like I talked about on Saturday, you definitely want to play well, but there’s so much more golf to be played [in those first three days], and I kind of lost sight of that.
So you have to have the intention to play well and you have to swing like you’re playing well (to take carefulness out of the swing) but you can’t press. It adds tension, tension tightens muscles and tight muscles slow down the golf swing.
Then Watney was asked what changed in the last two months, his swing or his attitude?
I would say it’s a tie. My swing — everybody that plays knows that sometimes the littlest thing can just click. I feel like as far as swinging the club, I’m very, very pleased with everything.
But my attitude, you know, my caddie said that — sometimes I ask him, where do I lose the most shots to the top players? And he said, without a doubt, it’s your attitude. So just getting down on myself, my mind lingering on bad things, and then making more mistakes.
So I think if this doesn’t — if this isn’t proof enough to myself that staying positive is a good thing, then I don’t know what could be.
Aside from his affirmation that “staying positive is a good thing,” I thought the other insight that came out of this quote was the nature of the player/caddie relationship. Imagine the vulnerability and trust that Watney, the “big gun” Tour player, had to have had to ask this question of an employee in the first place.
The bonus about Watney’s win is that it now elevates his name in the Ryder Cup discussions about who Captain Davis Love III will pick. And the other guy who shot up out of the dark is Snedeker for the same reason. Everyone knew that they were good players, but Love is looking for players who are hot now.
Next week’s Deutsche Bank in Boston, the second of The Playoffs tournaments, will be a key determinant.
On the LPGA Tour, the CN Canadian Women’s Open up in Vancouver was won — in case you hadn’t heard — by a 15-year-old!!
This young lady, Lydia Ko, beat the best field the LPGA has to offer by three strokes. In the process she now becomes the youngest winner in LPGA Tour history, surpassing Lexi Thompson’s stunning and historic first victory last year when she beat the previous record of Paula Creamer by over two years. Lydia added a year and three months to that record.
She made the turn tied for the lead and then reeled off four birdies in a row to ice the competition. And then added another birdie for good measure on 15. Playing with World No. 2, Stacy Lewis, and a Korean hero of hers, Jiyai Shin, Lydia received high praise from Lewis:
I was most impressed with just her demeanor. I mean you would have never known that it was the final round of an LPGA event. She played like she had been there before.
In a way, she had been there before. She just won the U.S. Women’s Amateur and is the top women’s amateur in the world.
She won her first professional tournament in January, the New South Wales Open on the Australian LPGA Tour. She went on to finish T19 in the Women’s Australian Open and T39 in the U.S. Women’s Open, making her low amateur. Her victory Sunday, while stunning, was really no fluke.
It’s great to win, and the last few holes, it got a bit nerve‑wracking. But Stacy Lewis after my birdie on 15 she said, you know, you can do it, and it was really great to have another player that I look up to giving me that much support. It was really awesome.
And so is she. Her family immigrated from Korea to New Zealand when she was six. And she still plans on attending college and maintaining her amateur status. She mentioned Stanford, but think about it, that’s still three years away for her! She feels like she still has a lot to learn at the amateur level. That’s a little hard to believe at this point.
On the Champions Tour, Jay Don Blake beat Mark O’Meara in a two-hole playoff to win the Boeing Classic at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge in Snoqualmie (Seattle), Washington. They both finished at 10-under for the three days.
But the result that attracted my attention was Willie Wood. When he won last week’s Dick’s Sporting Goods in New York, he elevated himself from a Monday qualifier to a champion and the one year exemption that went with it.
That certainly must have done something for his self-esteem because there he was right in the mix again this week.
And here’s the best part of that: tied with Michael Allen and Mark Calcavecchia who were in the clubhouse, Wood birdied the par-3 17th and par-5 18th to finish 3rd by himself and earn another $144,000 on top of the $270,000 for last week’s win.
Not bad for a guy who a week ago was comfortable that he was averaging $25,000 a week in winnings playing on sponsor’s exemptions and as a Monday qualifier.
He’s doing better than that now. And it’s so exciting to see someone come out of their shell and into the light.