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How Bulldog Golfing Great Nick Watney Got His Groove Back



After plunging to 681 in the world golf rankings, former Fresno State standout Nick Watney is off to a hot start in 2021-22. (AP File)
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Nick Watney has been to hell and back on the PGA Tour.

Nick Watney

“There was definitely some lean times, especially last year, but I’m not trying to think about that anymore.” — Mike Watney, former Fresno State standout

One of golf’s top performers for a spell — a Top 10 world ranking, a Presidents Cup appearance, five tour wins — the former Fresno State standout missed 18 straight cuts, was the first player to test positive for COVID-19, and finished No. 204 in the FedEx standings last season.

Most players in Watney’s position wouldn’t be able to regularly tee it up in PGA Tour events. They’d be scrambling in golf’s minor leagues. But as the 50th all-time career earnings leader with nearly $29 million, Watney utilized a one-time exemption for the 2021-22 campaign.

And, he’s using it to cash in big time.

Second in Sanderson Farms Championship

The 40-year-old Watney tied for second at 21-under par —a stroke behind winner Sam Burns on Sunday in the Sanderson Farms Championship. Combined with a 30th-place at the Fortinet Championship in Napa the previous week, he is fourth in the FedEx Cup standings after two events.

That’s quite a rebound for a player who ended last season ranked No. 681 in the world.

“There was definitely some lean times, especially last year, but I’m not trying to think about that anymore,” Watney told reporters on Sunday in Jackson, Mississippi. “I’m trying to continue to get better and this was a great step this week. I’m ready.”

Working Again With Butch Harmon

A back injury in 2016 contributed to Watney’s downward slide. So did losing his putting touch. Reconnecting with his former coach, Butch Harmon, this summer improved his putting and confidence. Watney led the Sanderson field in putting while putting together rounds of 65-66-71-65 and taking home $623,000.

Watney last won in August 2012 at The Barclays, a FedEx Cup playoff event. His other PGA Tour victories: the Zurich Classic of New Orleans (2007), the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines (2009), the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral (2011), and AT&T National (2011).

“I asked myself some really tough questions (last season,” Watney said. “You know, do I want to keep playing? Do I enjoy this? I’ve played long enough that I don’t really know anything else, you know? I think this proves to myself that what I’m working on is the right thing.”


Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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