Week in Review

American Idol

Nick Watney emerges as the U.S.'s unlikely leading man

July 4, 2011

Nick Watney is a bona fide star now, an unassuming one, who quietly has turned up in a place where no one -- not even those closest to him -- would have thought to look: the world top 10.

"Knowing how difficult it is out there, I never would have envisioned him in the top 10," his uncle and college coach at Fresno State, Mike Watney, said in a recent interview. "He never had superstar written all over him like Phil or Tiger.

"But he continually gets better. One thing you don't know is when does a person reach his peak? It doesn't look like he's reached it yet. He hasn't stopped improving."

Watney won the AT&T National on Sunday by entering the final round tied for the lead and shooting a bogey-free four-under par 66. It was his second victory of the year and the fourth of his career, moving him to 10th in the World Ranking.

Related: Nick Watney's Power Pointers

"When he was on the Nationwide Tour (in 2004) he called me in March," Uncle Mike said. "He said, 'Coach, I can play with these guys.' He calls me Coach. He said, 'I've played enough with these guys and I can do everything as well as they can.' Until you experience some time with them, you're kind of in awe and your game is not as sharp as it normally would be. At every level, he's gone through that."

Watney, 30, is making an argument that in the absence of a healthy Tiger Woods and an uneven Phil Mickelson, he has become the best American player on the PGA Tour.

"Nick Watney is the face of American golf...I'm incredibly bullish and a buyer long term, he'll be World's #1 someday," Joe Ogilvie posted on Twitter.

Watney leads the tour in earnings ($4,189,233) and is tied for the lead in top 10s (eight).

"Nick has a work ethic that people might not realize," Mike said. "He works very, very hard on this game. And he's also smart about it. He's just got a very, very solid game."


The British Open at Royal St. George's is 10 days away and Watney, who tied for seventh at St. Andrews last year, has to rate consideration. U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, will go into the British Open having not played since the U.S. Open, a curious way to prepare.

Related: The Top Links Courses

The best bet might by Martin Kaymer, who tied for fourth in the French Open and is suggesting that the tweaks to his swing have taken root.

"It was always a little bit too steep, a little too far out," he said of his swing. "I wanted to get it more on a neutral plane, to hit it straighter and have more options to shape the ball. I can see it. I'm getting closer every day. I just need to be patient and keep working on it, and I think soon everything will come together, hopefully at the right time. That would be nice. Around the British Open it would be fantastic."


What to make of Bubba Watson's performance on and off the course at the French Open last week? What to make of the reaction to it?

"Rumour has it that Bubba Watson has had surgery to mouth to make it smaller so foot won't fit with as much ease, hope it's successful ???" Stuart Appleby wrote on Twitter.

Related: Golf's Most Regrettable Interviews

"Watson's French foray lacking in entente cordiale," a headline in the Independent said. Entente cordiale translates to "a cordial understanding."

"He's so disingenuous," Christina Kim posted on Twitter.

He played poorly, was angry and mishandled himself, as he has done before. As for his bumbling about Paris landmarks, he has never represented himself as a sophisticate. He's Bubba from Bagdad, Fla. He's also a professional athlete. By now shouldn't we know better than to expect more of one?

On Twitter, David Feherty offered this: "For the record, I like Bubba. He screwed up, he apologized, so move on. Anyway, the Lafite is one of the most overrated wines in history."

Exactly, except for the reference to Château Lafite Rothschild. We have no opinion on Lafite, no experience with it, either, this being one of the most expensive wines in the world.

Is Watson's image irreparably harmed? Not likely. Does anyone recall the controversy England's Paul Casey ignited with disparaging remarks about Americans ("we properly hate them") in the wake of Europe's Ryder Cup victory in 2004?

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