LAS VEGAS — Nick Watney was running out of chances and had to make some tough decisions. The math was the easy part. It was asking himself if he still had the desire.
Watney was coming off the worst of his 16 full seasons on the PGA Tour, making only six cuts in 25 events with his best finish a tie for 34th on his own ball.
The first decision was whether to take a one-time exemption for top 50 in career money. He was at No. 50, just $68,324 ahead of Keegan Bradley. Not too far behind were Louis Oosthuizen, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau.
“It turned out to be an easy decision,” he said. “If I fall to 51, I can’t use it.”
As for the desire?
“I had a bit of a talk with myself. Do I want do this anymore? Do I still enjoy myself? Yes, I do,” Watney said. “When I haven’t had good seasons, I make the FedEx Cup (postseason) barely. With this one year, I’ve got to go. I’ve got to play some golf. It was definitely a wake-up call.
“The goal was to use it and play well and not have to think about it again. So far, so good.”
After a tie for 30th to start the new season — decent compared with last year — Watney started well and closed with a 65 in the Sanderson Farms Championship to tie for second. He fell back a little last week at the TPC Summerlin, but it still was three cuts in three starts.
It’s the first time in six years he started a new season by making three straight cuts.
Watney said he started to see some improvement in his game in the summer, when he decided to return to Butch Harmon, his longtime coach. Harmon doesn’t travel much, but Watney was more than willing to see him in Las Vegas.
“I played my best golf with him. He’s seen me hit a ton of balls. He’s like family,” Watney said. “I called, he answered and he said, ‘Come on.’ I just told him my career was flashing before my eyes and I want to make a run at it.”
Watney is taking two weeks off and plans to end the year with four straight events, starting with the Bermuda Championship. A strong finish could make the rest of the season less stressful.