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Points Leader Watney on a Roll Heading into Barclays
As the top seed heading into the four-tournament FedEx Cup Playoffs, Nick Watney is guaranteed a spot as one of the 30 players eligible for the Tour Championship finale at East Lake Golf Club.
Also assured a tee time in Atlanta are the other top seeds: Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson, Luke Donald, Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson, K.J. Choi and Bubba Watson. Everyone else in the 123-player playoffs, which starts today at The Barclays in New Jersey, will have to earn their way to the Tour Championship.
Once results are in at The Barclays, only the top 100 will advance to the next event, the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, with 70 going to the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado, where the field will be pared to 30.
Though Watney realizes he's in good shape, there are still four tournaments he must play to become the FedEx Cup champion and receive the $10 million that goes to the winner. "I feel like I'm in the best position I can, and I'm very pleased with the year so far, but we have a long way to go," he said Wednesday. "I'm excited to see if I can hold up in these next four events."
Here's what else the 30-year-old from Sacramento had to say during a Q&A with reporters.
MODERATOR: We want to welcome our FedEx Cup points leader, Nick Watney to the media center at The Barclays. Nick, you just got in from being out on the course there, just if you could, start by talking about entering the Playoffs, No. 1, the season that you've had, and now what you're looking forward to over the next four events.
NICK WATNEY: Well, I'm very excited to start the Playoffs. I feel like I'm in the best position I can, and I'm very pleased with the year so far, but we have a long way to go. I'm excited to see if I can hold up in these next four events.
Q. You've played the course, right? Could you tell me how you played the 14th hole, the par 3, it's about 238 over water, strategically, how do you attack that hole?
NICK WATNEY: Well, I think there's not really much attacking to be done. It's a tough shot. I hit a 3-iron today. The greens is pretty difficult for that length of hole. So I think for me, I'm just going to try to make four pars there, and go on from there.
Q. What about the 16th hole, the par-5, big slopey green on it, you want to talk about the challenges on that green, as well as the entire hole?
NICK WATNEY: Well, I think the most important thing would be where you miss your second shot, because like you said, the green is very slopey. And it will be really difficult to get the ball close going for the green in two, because you can't see where you're going. So I think where you miss it is going to be very important on that hole, and if they put the pin up top, I mean, I think that you definitely have some guys complaining about that. So it's going to be a good challenge.
Q. How, if at all, does the threat of nasty conditions with the hurricane on Sunday affect how you play the first three rounds?
NICK WATNEY: I don't think it will affect how we play. But it will be interesting to see if we get the tournament in by Tuesday, really, if what hits -- what I've heard can happen, if that actually happens, it will be interesting to see when we do actually finish, because I guess there are reports that it could be pretty brutal. Yeah, I mean, I think just wait and see and hopefully it turns off-course so we can get the tournament in.
Q. What will you do on 18? What would be your game plan?
NICK WATNEY: I hit driver today. I think it all depends on the pin placement. I mean, I think if you -- it's an advantage if you can reach the green to go for it. So I'll probably hit driver there almost every day. You know, we'll see how that works out for me. But I think if you can reach it, it would be an advantage to get it up there around the green.
Q. Where did your tee ball finish today?
NICK WATNEY: Today I hooked it pretty far to the left. The pin today was on the right side of the green. I could see it. If it was on the left, though, I'd have a lot of problems. So even though it's reachable, you still have to hit a good shot in order to have a birdie opportunity.
Q. Having won at Aronimink, a Ross design, and this being a Ross design, too, is there any similarities between the two that you notice that might suit your eye this week?
NICK WATNEY: I think the golf courses are fairly different to be honest. Although that's a Ross design, it doesn't have the usual characteristics of the greens running off and steep slopes around the greens and whatnot. This place is I think what made them pretty famous, the greens are interesting, to say the least. So I'm interested to see where they can find four pin placements, because some of the greens are extremely sloped.
Q. Getting back to the 18th, I was watching you when you teed off there. How much of -- when you have a drivable four, do you have to maybe sometimes dial back, I know you said you're going to hit driver. But how much do you weigh the risk versus the reward, when you step up there, depending on whether you have the lead or you have to come back and make a number?
NICK WATNEY: Yeah, well, I think where they put the flag, it depends so much. That can determine so much of, you know, how much you attack and how much you might dial back. With the pin left it there, I think it would be a pretty difficult -- you have to hit a really good shot in order to -- in order to have a chance to make a three, with the pin all the way on the left. So if the flag -- if they tuck it back on the left side, I may lay up a bit. But for the most part, 18, and is it 4 -- I think I'll hit driver probably three of the four days.
Q. You guys don't see a hole like, that especially as an 18th hole, I can imagine very often. Is it nice to have, I don't know if a change of pace is the right term, but something different, as a finishing hole?
NICK WATNEY: Yeah, I. Think it will be real exciting. Like you said, it's different from what we see, and I think it will be great. A guy leading by one shot, a lot can happen. If he hits a poor shot, he can lose a tournament outright. I think it's a really nice change of pace, and it will make things exciting.
Q. In a reverse sort of way, with the greens as pitched and as undulating as they are here, does it make ball-striking more important that you have to sort of get the ball in the right places?
NICK WATNEY: Yeah, I think so. I think coming from the fairway will be a premium just so you can control it. I heard they got a lot of rain last week but the greens are firming up somewhat. And coming from the fairway will be a huge advantage. The rough's very thick. And to get the ball close, you have to be able to control spin. You can only do that out of the fairway, and so I think that would be the biggest deal.
Q. On the Playoffs yourself, you're in the pole position, I guess. Do you see an analogy there to the racing analogy? And these have been around for a few years now. How do you think the players are viewing these Playoffs?
NICK WATNEY: Yeah, I definitely think the pole position is a good analogy, because you know, you have to play well to stay there. And it's nice to start there, but obviously a lot can happen, like we saw Heath Slocum move from whatever he was, from 120th to second or something like that. There's a lot can happen. I think the players are warming up to it. At first, kind of messed with the points a little bit. First year was really hard to move. Second year was, you know, very, very volatile. I think now is a pretty good mix and I think it definitely makes the end of the year a little more exciting, whereas it used to kind of drag on, and the Tour Championship was so late and all that stuff. So I think the idea is good. It's taking hold a little bit, and I think players enjoy it.
Q. With 18, obviously everybody going for it, there's going to be some waiting there, how much harder is that shot going to be if the tournament is on the line Sunday and you've got to wait for 15 minutes?
NICK WATNEY: Well, you know, if you have the lead and you have to wait anywhere, it makes it tough. But I think there could be -- the way that this course is laid out, there could be a few times you have to wait and I think it's just -- it's just part of it. If you -- hopefully you're in that position. I wouldn't mind having to wait if I was leading the tournament, so it's a good problem to have.
Q. I'm working on a story on Luke Donald and I just wanted to get your thoughts on the fact that he could lead both The European Tour and the PGA Tour Money Lists at the end of the year. How impressive is that?
NICK WATNEY: I think it's extremely impressive. He's without a doubt the most consistent player in the world right now. I think he's ten Top-10s in 13 events or something like that I heard. And obviously he won in Europe, and I think it speaks volumes of how consistently he's played at a very high level.
Q. Jim Furyk mentioned yesterday that he was surprised by the amount of blind shots that there were on this course because of the rolling fairways. I was just wondering what your thoughts were on your visibility on the course, and how that affects your play, given that this is a course that none of the pros have played before?
NICK WATNEY: It's a little bit awkward. I think the first couple of times you see it -- but by the end of the week, guys will have their lines down pretty well. I don't think it will play too much of a factor. But going around the first time, it's definitely a bit of -- there's some guesswork, because you don't really know -- you don't really know what's out there. On some of these courses, there could be hazards or something like that, so I think, you know, the first couple of times you play it, it's a factor but after that, you've got your lines down pretty well.
Q. I know you're a West Coast guy, but just wanted to get your thoughts on your favorite and least favorite things about being in New Jersey?
NICK WATNEY: My favorite and least favorite -- (chuckling). My favorite would be the pizza. My least favorite would be the earthquakes. (Laughter).
Q. You're one of the 20-somethings who have been part of this sort of, you know, big year for young guys. Do you think this is a cyclical thing, or do you think it's more lasting that the men's tour is going to have more guys win and win often in their 20s?
NICK WATNEY: I think it's just -- I think it's just a Tiger effect is starting to take. You know, Tiger made golf cool, and a lot of these guys that were winning now are 15 or 14 years old when he first came out. So I think the quality of players that are coming out now is maybe as high as it's ever been. I just think this was a matter of time coming, and I think it will continue.
MODERATOR: Thanks, Nick, good luck this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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