Can Nick Watney Hang On and Win the 2010 PGA Championship?

For people who follow this site regularly, there’s one thing that you know (I’m hoping you’ve learned more though). Nick Watney has become one of my favorite players on tour. When I was watching the 2009 Buick Invitational, there was just something about this guy’s game that I loved. He held off John Rollins to win the tournament by a stroke, and I instantly became a fan. And through three rounds of the 2010 PGA Championship, there’s never been a better time to be a Watney fan, as he finds himself with a three-shot lead entering the final round at Whistling Straits.

(Let’s go ahead and get the bragging out of the way. Yes, I kind of saw this coming. So let me think for a few moments that I am the master of golf predictions…….and now we can move on.)

Anyways, back to the championship. Watney was simply rock solid in round three. What I’ve always liked most about his game is his putting. And he was simply fearless on the greens today.

He started off with five birdies through seven holes, which pretty much set the pace for his entire day. The birdie putts weren’t just simple two or three footers either. They were of various length, and some were from a pretty distance away. But you could tell early on that he was feeling it, and while the putter was huge for him, his iron play was superb as well as he put himself in great position to shoot a low score. And that low score has gave him a small cushion heading into the final round.

But as a fan of Watney, my worst fear right now is that he will come out and let the pressure get to him. And it doesn’t make me feel any better that he’s paired with Dustin Johnson, who um, kind of had that little meltdown in the final round of the U.S. Open. And by little meltdown, I mean shooting an 82.

Watney does seem different though. While the guy may not be the most media-saavy player on tour, he does seem to have a quiet confidence that speaks louder than any of his words could, especially in a situation like this. In talking about him as a potential sleeper pick, I made the comment that he would need to get off to a fast start, and not play catch up on the weekend. After all, that’s what has been holding him back in other majors this year. He has had the tendency to start slow, and make a run in the final few rounds, but it hasn’t been enough to catch the leaders. Now he is the leader, and is hoping no one makes a run to catch him on Sunday.

Let’s face it though. Someone is going to make a run and challenge him. I don’t expect this to be a Louis Oosthuizen situation at St. Andrews, where he will completely lap the field and dominant. There’s simply too many guys playing great golf right now.

It could be Johnson. It could be Rory McIlroy. It could be Wenchong Liang, who shot a course record 64 in round three.

But as Watney said in his post-round press conference, he can only control what he does. He’s the one with the three-shot lead right now, and if he plays well, he will win this tournament. Unless of course someone pulls off a miraculous round for the ages. But since I’m a Watney fan, let’s not bring up that possibility right now.

In looking back at the Masters this year, I said this about Watney:

“Like AK, his confidence is riding high right now, and although he may not be a factor in every tournament he plays in, his game is too good for him to not win a big tournament soon. Let me just go ahead and throw it out there right now: Nick Watney wins the 2011 Masters.”

I was saying that in hopes that it would be Watney’s first major championship of his career. But now I’m hoping that next year at Augusta, he’ll be looking for his second major championship of his career.

Watney deserves it, and I hope he cashes in on Sunday.

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Tags: Dustin Johnson Dustin Johnson Meltdown Golf Louis Oosthuizen Nick Watney PGA Championship Pga Championship Predictions Pga Championship Sleeper Picks Pga Championship Third Round Rory McIlroy St. Andrews Wenchong Liang Whistling Straits Whistling Straits Course Record

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