Nick Watney calls it “an amazing kind of lifeline.” After finishing 204th in the FedEx Cup standings last season, though failing to reach the Korn Ferry Tour final, Watney is playing only once this season using a top-50 PGA Tour career money-list exemption. Watney’s rank on the career money list going into the 2021-22 season? Nr. 50. In other words, it was now or never to use it.
“Having it was incredible,” he said.
Watney, 40, gets the most out of it at the start of the new season. He followed up with a respectable T-29 at the season opener of the Fortinet Championship with a draw for the second Sunday at the Sanderson Farms Championship and shot a final round, bogey-free 65 to finish with a 72-hole total of 21 under 267, one stroke behind winner Sam Burns.
“That’s why I play golf,” Watney said, “to be nervous and pull it off.”
Watney was once among the best players in the game, breaking the top 10 in the world in 2011 and winning five times between 2007 and 2012. But he has endured a winning drought, 3,325 days and counting, since Barclays 2012 and hit bottom last season when he missed 13 cuts in a row and 18 in a tension of 19 are starting to crash down to No. 660 in the world that entered the Sanderson Farms Championship.
It’s 3,325 days since Nick Watney last won the TOUR. pic.twitter.com/jjq4a6EePQ
– PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 3, 2021
“Last year there were some low times the kind I asked myself some really tough questions,” he said. “You know, I want to keep playing? Can I enjoy this? ”
Watney’s soul search cut to the bone and eventually came to this realization: “I’ve been playing long enough that I do not really know anything else, you know?”
All that time on the road with nothing to show for his efforts made it to leave his family unbearable. It should also be included in the equation. So what was the answer to the tough question of whether he still loved the nomadic life that is the PGA Tour?
“I really do,” he said.
He decided to go back to the grindstone. Watney began working with his longtime director Butch Harmon to try to regain the magic that made him one of the best in the game. Watney may not have gone home with Sanderson Farm’s Rooster Trophy, but he set off with a boost in confidence – his first top-10 finish since a T-10 at the 2019 Safeway Championship and the best result since finishing second in Wells Fargo 2018 Championship-that may be the difference as he tries to get the most out of his one-time career-money list exemption in his career.
“I think this proves to myself that what I’m working on is right,” he said. “There were definitely some lean times, especially last year, but I mean, I’m not trying to think about it anymore, I’m trying to keep getting better, and that was a good step this week.”