Nobody wants to play Nick Watney right now
I feel bad for Ryan Moore, I really do. There are a couple of guys on the top of their game this week, but I’m not sure any of them are playing at the same level as Nick Watney — and that includes Ben Crane, who waxed Rory McIlroy in the second round.
As you can tell from his interviews this week, Watney isn’t big on the spotlight. He prefers to let his game do the talking, something he’s done on two occasions already in big victories over Anthony Kim and Lee Westwood. His win over the world number one on Thursday was a warning shot to the rest of the field that he’s a force to be reckoned with, even though he did struggle down the stretch against Westwood.
None of this should come as a surprise if you’ve seen Watney play this season. While he only has three starts under his belt, they were all top 10 finishes. Actually, if you want to get technical, they were top 6 finishes, but who’s really counting. What really matters is Watney’s making birdies in bunches, and leading the tour in scoring average (68.96).
Unless Ryan Moore can match him birdie for birdie tomorrow, I just don’t see a way how this match doesn’t end with Watney doffing his cap and wishing Moore a safe trip back to Washington. That’s nothing against Moore — he’s got a great game — but Watney’s simply playing on a different level. We’ve seen guys play like this before in the Accenture Match Play. I’d liken it to the form I saw from Poulter last year, when he used this tournament as a springboard for the rest of the season.
While Watney is a two-time winner on tour, he’s never had the chance to win a tournament like the Accenture Match Play. It’s the kind of event that could propel him to bigger things, like, say, a run at his first major championship in April. That may be looking ahead, but with the way he’s been playing recently, it’s not a stretch to consider him a dark horse at Augusta if he can get through the next couple of days and come out on top at Dove Mountain.