Watney takes first round lead in Barracuda event
RENO – Nick Watney entered the Barracuda Championship ranked 124th in the FedEx standings, and is in danger of not making the playoffs.
If Watney puts three more rounds together like he did on Thursday, he won’t have to sweat a playoff spot.
Watney tied a single-round Modified Stableford scoring record with 18 points thanks to nine birdies en route to the first-round lead at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
The 18-point performance ties the record first set by Jonathan Byrd in last year’s final round.
Watney leads Geoff Ogilvy and Tim Wilkinson by two points and Martin Laird and Chad Campbell by five points. Kevin Chappell, John Huh, Wes Roach and former champ John Rollins are at 12 points, six off the lead. Twelve players — Nathan Green, Rod Pampling, Tommy Gainey, Woody Austin, Derek Ernst, Danny Lee, Eric Axley, George Coetzee, Doug LaBelle, ex-UNR star Kevin Lucas and Patrick Rodgers, who is in on a sponsor exemption — finished tied for 10th at 11 points.
“I’m very pleased with how I played,” Watney said. “This is close to home, and it was nice to see friends and family. I’m enjoying myself so far. I hope it continues like this.”
Watney used a combination of good driving, pinpoint irons and solid putting to record a bogey free round. He hit 11 of 14 fairways, 14 of 18 greens and needed just 23 putts. The longest birdie putt was 8 feet. On two of the par-5s, he got down in two from 88 feet on No. 2 and from 39 feet on No. 13.
“I feel this has been building for a while, and the thing that has been missing is the putting, and I putted great today,” Watney said. “They (the greens) were pretty good. I think some of the greens being a little soft are going to get bumpy with all the traffic. Hopefully I hit it close enough and roll it well enough that it won’t affect it too much. The course was great, no complaints from me.
“When I did miss a couple of greens, I chipped to within tap-ins. I hit some really nice wedges. That was the result of good driving.”
Watney said he tries not to think about the upcoming playoffs.
“Well you know, you definitely don’t want to miss tournaments and not qualify for tournaments,” Watney said. “So it’s definitely a factor. But we can’t really, if you tee off thinking about that, you probably won’t play as well as you should. So it’s a motivating factor.
“I like to play as long as I can, but at the same time, you know, I’ve got to take care of my job out there. The better I do that, the better my scores will be and the less I’ll have to worry about the FedExCup.”
Ogilvy and Tim Wilkinson took advantage of pristine weather conditions to rack up impressive 16-point days among the morning starters.
Wilkinson strung together five straight birdies on the back nine, and nine overall, while Ogilvy had eight birdies as both finished the day with 16 points.
Ogilvy racked up eight birdies without a bogey.
“I played well,” Ogilvie said. “Kind of weird. Was a bit 50-50 on actually coming here. Even after last week I was just frustrated and not making enough birdies. I thought I’m going to come and make 18 pars and score enough points. It doesn’t work. Eight birdies is the most I’ve had for a long time. Perfect for the format.
“I’ve been hitting it well every week. I just haven’t made any putts. It’s the normal story when you ask most of us out here what’s working and what’s not. When putting is working it goes well. A few putts went in. I hit the ball really well, and then I actually had a few short ones I didn’t make. But I did make a couple bonus long ones putting mostly.”
Ogilvy’s longest birdie putt was 34 feet on the par-5 8th. Most of his birdies ranged from 2 to 7 feet. He two-putted for birdie on No. 18.
“I just played really well,“ Ogilvy said. “I mean, it was there for the taking. I birdied the holes I was supposed to. You know every time I had a wedge or a short shot I hit it pretty close and made it and birdied three of the par-5s. It’s nice to get a whole lot of points this morning. It can get a bit gusty in the afternoons and a bit trickier. It was calm this morning, and it’s good to get a whole lot of points under your belt early.”
Wilkinson, who is 112th on the money list, is looking for a big week as he makes his playoff push.
“Obviously pushing inside of the top 100,” he said when asked of his goals this week. “There is not as many points (available) this week. You need a good finish.
“It’s nice to get a whole lot of points this morning. It can get a bit gusty in the afternoons and a bit trickier.”
Wilkinson birdied Nos. 3, 4 and 5, bogeyed No. 6 and parred No. 8. On No. 3 he hit a 7-footer and followed that up with putts of 10 and 14 feet, respectively.
His round took off on the back side when he birdied five straight holes to get to 16. He parred out from 15 through 18.
Wilkinson buried a 21-footer on No. 10, a 17-footer on the par-3 11th, a 5-footer on 12, got down in two from 80 feet on the par-5 13th and dropped in a 3-footer on the par-4 14th. He missed a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
“Just the one on the last hole,” Wilkinson said when asked if he left any points on the course. “Yeah, other than that, I played well, putted well.”
Campbell actually had a chance to catch the leaders, but he lost a point when he bogeyed the par-3 16th. He registered pars on 17 and 18 to finish the day tied for fourth with Laird, who has played Montreux real well in his two previous appearances.