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March 13, 2009

Nick Watney


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Nick Watney, thanks for joining us here after rounds of 66 and 67, a couple shots off Phil Mickelson's lead, but you'll be playing with Phil tomorrow in the final group, playing in twos tomorrow. You won earlier at the Buick Invitational, so off to a great start this year and this week. Maybe some comments to start, please.
NICK WATNEY: I feel pretty comfortable on this golf course and I'm playing very well and I'm putting well to start. So pleased with the first two rounds, and as far as tomorrow goes, very excited to play with Phil, and I'm looking forward to it.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: As far as looking at your scorecard, there are no bogeys on it, maybe just talk about these first few days. Has it been relatively stress-free or have you been making a lot of saves.
NICK WATNEY: It has been pretty stress-free. I've been keeping the ball in play very well, and when I have had five or six footer for par, I made them. But knock-on-wood, it's been kind of easy so far.

Q. What are you doing differently this year that you weren't doing last year, because your success --
NICK WATNEY: I would say the biggest difference would be putting, for sure. I hit the ball fairly well last year, but just my putting was really -- really let my down. So I worked real hard in the off-season with my coach, Butch Harmon, and it's really been paying off so far this year.

Q. Is Butch still around this week? Is he here now?
NICK WATNEY: Oh, yeah, he's doing announcing for SKY Sports.

Q. So how are you working it out with him with time, between Phil and him, and how is that working out?
NICK WATNEY: Well, that's not for me to answer; that's for Butch to answer.
He does a good job of, he sees -- he has five students here. So he sees us all, and I don't think anybody feels slighted or anything.

Q. But just a follow-up, how many times have you played with Phil before, and how do you like the pairing?
NICK WATNEY: I would say I've played with Phil five or six times, and I definitely like the pairing. I mean, he's one of the best players of our generation, and you know, I'm looking forward to what I can learn and see if I can hang with him for a couple of days.

Q. Did you see this coming? I mean, have you been building up to the point where you're ready to play at this level?
NICK WATNEY: I mean, yeah, this is why I play. I want to compete at the highest level, so I'm definitely excited and pleased. But I wouldn't say surprised.

Q. Butch has a very good eye for, as I think everybody here knows; when he's working with you on your putting, is it technique as well as mental?
NICK WATNEY: Yeah, actually earlier this week, Wednesday afternoon, right before he went out with Phil for nine holes, actually I was on the putting green with him. And came by just to say hello. I kind of mentioned to him that I didn't like how I was rolling my ball. It just didn't feel right.
So we did a little quick fix session.

Q. Which was?
NICK WATNEY: Well, I kind of had the putter -- I had the putter just a touch hooded coming back. Yeah, so it was a little bit closed.
So I would have to correct it somehow, which I either push it too much or if I didn't correct it, I would pull it. It was just creating all kind of havoc.
We worked for maybe, just 15 or 20 minutes, and then he had to go out with Phil. But I stayed on the green for a little bit, and so far, it's really paid off.

Q. So did he tell you something specific to do to correct that?
NICK WATNEY: Well, I've been working with a putting track that he gave me that kind of helps get the putter to stay square going back. So I worked on there. And then he said to just hit a few putts without the putter on the track and said that it was looking better.
So I worked on that after he left, and I'm putting very well.

Q. There's probably nobody flying under the radar more than you this week with Phil on the board and guys taking their clothes off yesterday. If you could find of talk about, do you kind of prefer it that way? You're obviously a very low-key guy, one of the nicer guys on TOUR and have that reputation. Talk about that.
NICK WATNEY: Do I prefer it? I mean, I guess I don't really -- I don't really notice.
Yeah, I mean, Phil, for good reason, he gets a lot of attention. He's a multiple-Major winner, and I guess it's just my job to make people notice with my play and try to keep my clothes on. (Laughter).

Q. Maybe along the same lines, you are kind of the lowest marquee guy in Butch's stable right now. Does that help you maybe, because you're allowed to kind of work without the glare of the spotlight? And then do you pick up anything from Phil or Adam or any of those other guys?
NICK WATNEY: I don't know. I mean, I haven't been in the spotlight too often, so I can't really comment on that.
But as far as do I pick up stuff, I mean, absolutely. Butch's knowledge of the game is incredible, if you guys have had the opportunity to talk to him, about who he's worked with and who he's seen play the game in his life. It's pretty amazing.
Yeah, definitely. I played a practice round with Adam this week. Phil came to Vegas early January and I played a couple of holes with him. Yeah, I mean, I think part of the reason why I love the game is I love trying to improve. So learning from players who are better than me and more proven is vital to that. I'm lucky enough to have a really good position to be in and learn from some pretty good guys.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: If we could go through your scorecard real quick and we'll take one final question. You started on the front side today with a birdie on the first hole, par 5.
NICK WATNEY: Yeah, you would always like to birdie that hole. Right now it's playing a bit downwind, so you can have an iron, or a long to a mid-iron in, and I hit it in the back bunker and was able to make a nice up-and-down. So it was a good start to the day.
No. 8, another Par 5.
NICK WATNEY: I had to lay up and hit a pitching wedge from about 115 to a foot. Usually I can handle those.
No. 12, I hit two good shots about green-high, and so-so chip and made about a 12-footer.
16, I hit a good drive right in front of the green and hit a nice pitch about three feet.
Then 17, just short of the green and holed about a 20-footer.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Obviously 18 is playing probably about as tough as any 18th hole can play. So par is a great score today. Maybe take us through that.
NICK WATNEY: Yeah, I draw the ball off the tee, so with the wind being off the left, I just aimed straight down the middle and tried to draw into the wind. Hit a really good tee shot and a good 6-iron probably 25 feet right of the hole and then putted down about a foot below it.

Q. When you have played with Phil, what stands out about your rounds or your experiences with him?
NICK WATNEY: Well, unfortunately when we played, we haven't really been near the top of the board. We've been middle of the pack or back. I would say I've had a lot of fun with Phil. He's a great guy.
But as far as his game, his chipping and wedge play is, you know, very, very impressive. So I think those are the things that stands out the most.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Nick Watney, thank you. Good luck tomorrow.

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