Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Shane Bacon take a day’s topic and smack it all over the course. This week, Jonathan Wall steps in for Jay. Suggest a future topic by writing firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit us on Twitter at @jonathanrwall and @shanebacon. Today, we discuss Nick Watney, and his value in the golf world both as a top player and as a top American.
Wall: Not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but Nick Watney won his second tour event of the season over the weekend. Dude is so quiet I almost forgot he was in the field until he hoisted the trophy on Sunday evening. I’m kidding, of course, but it seems like Watney’s nickname should be the “Silent Assassin” for the way he continues to sneak up on the competition. He’s now ranked in the OWGR top 10 and continues to play solid golf almost every week. Yet we rarely talk about him as a top player. Seriously, is there a more underrated golfer in the game right now than this guy?
Bacon: There can’t be. This is a guy that in the last year has won two marquee non-majors, led a major after 54 holes and finished in the top 10 at the British. But let me ask a follow-up; why do we always forget about this guy? Is it because he’s quiet and just goes about his business, or is it simply easier to pull up names like McIlroy and Mickelson when talking about the top dogs? I feel like this is a kid that has all the tools we want in our next young American star, but for some reason, fail to get behind.
Wall: I think it’s valid question. In all honesty, he’s not a sexy name like Dustin Johnson or Bubba Watson. I’d be willing to bet if he was in the "Golf Boys" video or tried to get in the spotlight on occasion, we’d definitely be mentioning him in the same breath as some of the top American players in the game. He reminds me a lot of a young Steve Stricker, in the sense that he wins tournaments and usually finishes in the top 25, but he still doesn’t have a major. Win one and we definitely won’t forget about him, don’t you think?
Bacon: I like the Stricker comparison. A guy that gets it done, normally with a sincere smile on his face, and rides off in his Lexus with the trophy.
So, I’ll toss this at you — is Watney the most likely American to contend at next week’s British, or is it just up for grabs at this point for any of about 30 names out of the red, white and blue?
Wall: Ugh, I was hoping you weren’t going to ask this question! American golfers have had a lot of success recently at the Open Championship, but outside of Tiger, the names have been all over the map. While I think Watney has a great chance based on his recent form in the major — T-7 in ‘10 — I also think any number of names could be in the mix. Heck, John Daly has a chance! So my roundabout answer is I’d take the field at this time. You in agreement?
Bacon: Absolutely, the field seems like the only way to go these days, that is, unless you had Oosthuzen-Kaymer-Schwartzel-McIlroy in that order, and if you did, mind sending me a predictions text?
Now your turn … is Watney underrated, or do we place him right where he needs to be?