Nick Watney First time PGA Tour winner Nick Watney talks about Zurich Classic

Californian Nick Watney held off Ken Duke to win the Zurich Classic yesterday at the TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., his first career PGA Tour victory.

Watney, 25, had a previous best-finish of fifth, which he accomplished twice in 2006. In the final round of the Zurich Classic, Watney lost the lead to Duke after bogeying the 10th hole, but bounced back with birdies on Nos. 11 and 14 to cement his lead, then hit every green in regulation to cruise home with the victory.

Here, Watney talks about his victory.

Nick Watney

Q. Talk about the experience of just going through -- after you make that last putt, you have all the photographers rush you, you have kids, you have people with beads and almost an entourage to get escorted in here all after one putt.

NICK WATNEY: Well, you know, I mean, I've seen it happen on TV and stuff. I've played in close to the last group sometimes, and I've seen guys go through it. But it's definitely more fun to actually do it. I'm trying to soak it all in. I'm having a blast and just very happy.

Q. The key on 14, the two-shot swing at that point, talk about how much that brought you in.

NICK WATNEY: Well, I mean, obviously it was a big turning point. But at the same time, I told my caddie that it didn't really mean anything because we still had four holes to go. I know that Ken, he's a fighter, he's a gamer, and he wasn't going to give up.
It was definitely big, but at the same time, I think I tried to focus even harder after that.

Q. What was it like going down 18 with a two-shot lead? What was your thought process there?

NICK WATNEY: Well, I tried not to think about it too much playing the hole. I was trying to prepare myself thinking that Ken was going to hole that bunker shot.
But after he didn't, then it kind of soaked in. The first three shots were -- I was very nervous. But after that, it was kind of -- I realized that I won (smiling), and it was a lot of fun.

Q. Did you vacillate off the tee, what club you were going to use off the tee, or did you stick with your --

NICK WATNEY: I figured if I made par, he would have to make eagle to tie, which isn't easy to do on that hole. So I wanted to take the water out of play and play it as a three-shot hole and make it as simple as possible.

Q. Did you mean to throw that third shot right at the hole like that?

NICK WATNEY: Well, the way the wind was blowing, and the pin was eight from the right edge, so I had some room. Yeah, I kind of wanted to, you know, close the door, or however you want to say it. But I felt good, I felt confident, so take it right at it.

Q. Did you feel some jitters at all with the two bogeys and then the eagle on the next hole?

NICK WATNEY: Yeah, I was definitely nervous to start out, but it's a good thing. I mean, any time you hole a shot there's a little luck involved, so it was definitely my week. I was nervous, but I'm proud that I was able to handle it.

Q. What did you hit there on 8?

NICK WATNEY: That was a pitching wedge.

Q. How long was the shot, 132?

NICK WATNEY: That sounds right.

Q. You're the 16th player to win his first PGA TOUR event here at this tournament. What do you think it is about the Zurich Classic of New Orleans?

NICK WATNEY: I don't know, it's tough to say. I'm very proud to join that list, but I can't really say why or why not that happens here.

Q. You mentioned a lot of benefits that are going to flow to you as a golfer because of the win here, but I'm curious, what's it like to get a check for a million dollars?

NICK WATNEY: You know, it's nice obviously (laughter), but at the same time, that's not why I play golf. To be honest, I don't even see the check. It's automatically deposited.

Q. You mean you can't fit that one in the overhead on the plane?

NICK WATNEY: No. It's nice, but that's just a bonus.

Q. Well, they were saying before the tournament started that it could be a life-changing event for someone come Sunday afternoon. Has it been that for you?

NICK WATNEY: I think I'll be the same person, but I get to play The Masters and go to Kapalua to start the year, so I'm very excited.

Q. What prompted you to make your remarks about New Orleans at the end?

NICK WATNEY: I mean, I just -- I think it's pretty remarkable, the destruction that came through here, and for people to come back and build up the city and then come out here and watch us, I think says a lot about -- that's pretty impressive.

Q. New Orleans is obviously a different type of city from many other cities. Being from Fresno, California, what do you think when you see people throwing beads at you and you have a band leading you out onto the 18th and you pass tons of crawfish as you're coming into the media room?

NICK WATNEY: Well, I think it's the culture and the history here. You know, people are proud, and they have a right to be, and it's pretty neat.

Q. The last three guys that won on Tour have all come off the Nationwide Tour, including Zach winning The Masters. Talk a little bit about -- it seems like right now it's all Nationwide all the time.

NICK WATNEY: Well, I mean, I think it just proves that it's a great training ground. You know, most every baseball player goes through the minor leagues, and that's kind of similar to the TOUR but on a smaller scale. It's just a great way to improve and learn, and I think the results speak for themselves.

Q. Is it nice to see all those familiar faces that you played with in the winner's circle?

NICK WATNEY: Yeah, I was actually talking to Tom Johnson on the range, and it was Tom, myself, John Merrick, and somebody else that we played college golf with, and it's pretty cool to see us all out here and to see some friends we made in the past.

Q. Can you talk about the course a little bit? Do you like the setup? Do you need to be a long hitter to be successful here?

NICK WATNEY: Well, I don't know about being a long hitter. With all due respect to Ken, I mean, I thought he played great, and he's not considered one of the longest hitters out here. The golf course played firm. You definitely had to think about where you were going to place your ball. I think for the weather we got, I thought the course played very, very well.

Q. Do you like the layout?

NICK WATNEY: Yeah, you have to think your way around. At the same time, if you hit a poor shot, you have to miss it in the right spot, so I think it's a good layout.

Q. When you got to the tee today off the range and the winds and everything, was there a number you thought you had to hit today to win it?

NICK WATNEY: No, there wasn't, because the number was going to be dictated by the other scores. I wasn't really thinking about a number.

Q. Ken said you were taking some deep breaths out there --

NICK WATNEY: (Smiling).

Q. -- and I heard somebody else watching you, a fan, said the same thing. Tell us about it. Was this sort of a conscious thing?

NICK WATNEY: It was a little bit conscious. I would say -- I don't know if nervous is the right word, but I was definitely very excited and very -- I had a lot of adrenaline flowing. A four-footer, you don't really need much adrenaline. I was just trying to calm myself a little bit, and it worked out.

Q. Did you have to calm yourself after the eagle?

NICK WATNEY: No, not really, because -- no, those two early bogeys, and Ken was playing very well. I knew I couldn't keep going the same direction I was, so that was kind of a shot in the arm.

Q. What were you thinking when you saw the shot go in?

NICK WATNEY: When I saw it in the air?

Q. Yeah, you thought it was going to be right there?

NICK WATNEY: I thought it was going to be good, but it's tough to tell with all the humps and bumps around here. It's tough to tell. Sometimes you think it's close and it's 20 feet short or long, so I didn't really know. But then the ball disappeared (smiling).

Q. How important was 17 to help you close the deal?

NICK WATNEY: It was very important. I mean, that hole is -- they've changed it. They've removed the bunker on the left side, so obviously if you get it going left at all, you're in trouble.You know, I have to say thank you to Butch Harmon. I mean, I love him. I've been working with him now almost two years, and I hit the ball really, really well all four days, and I have to give him a lot of credit for that.

Q. I was wondering about your schedule now. New Orleans is a good town for celebrating a victory like this. Is your schedule going to allow it, or is there anything you're interested in doing?

NICK WATNEY: I'm pretty low key. I probably won't live it up too much. I'll definitely call my parents (laughter) and just kind of relax. I mean, I'm kind of amped up right now, so I've got to wind down.

Q. What are your plans? I know you're playing Nelson. What are you doing after that?

NICK WATNEY: I'm going to play the Nelson, Charlotte and THE PLAYERS and then kind of reevaluate from there.

Q. Are you going to Dallas tomorrow or tonight?

NICK WATNEY: I'm supposed to go tonight. My plans are kind of up in the air right now.

Q. Was there anything you'd ever promised yourself or your parents that you would do if you ever won your first tournament?

NICK WATNEY: I never really got that far. I mean, I'm just thrilled to be here (smiling) and have the trophy. I'll figure that out later.

Q. Are there more to come?

NICK WATNEY: I hope so. I mean, I loved being in this position. That's one of the funnest things about it is to be in position and pull it off and conquer your nerves. I love it, and I hope I'm in contention next week.

Q. You said you've dreamed about this. Has it met your expectations thus far? It's only been a half hour or 45 minutes.

NICK WATNEY: I would say yes. It's definitely a huge feeling of accomplishment. But at the same time, it's something to build on, and I was able to do it this week. Now I've got to go work hard and see if I can do it again.

Q. Did you dream about it last night? Were you restless?

NICK WATNEY: I tried not to think about it last night. I don't know if I was very successful, but I knew that if I was thinking about it, it probably wouldn't happen.

I did a pretty good job of staying in the moment, and here I am.

Q. How much sleep did you get?
NICK WATNEY: I went to sleep I would say around 11:00, and I woke up at 5:30, which is earlier than normal. But it was enough.

Q. Let's go through your card. Bogey on 3.

NICK WATNEY:Bogey on 3, I hit a 7-iron a little bit left and chipped it about five feet by. Actually I thought it was going to be pretty straight and the putt broke, so made bogey.
No. 4, bogey, I drove it in the fairway bunker, which I didn't really have much, couldn't get my third shot very close. Eagle on 5, I hit a good drive and a wedge that was -- it looked good, but I didn't know -- you definitely need some luck to hole a shot. I think it was my week. Birdie on 7 was key. I knew Ken was going to make his, and I actually had to putt from off the green, and the ball kind of hung on the lip and fell. Again, my week, I guess. Birdie on 8, I hit a lob wedge about a foot from the hole. Bogey on 10, I hit a good shot in there about seven feet, and my putt, I thought it was going to break right and it broke left. So then I thought the second one was straight, and it broke left and lipped out. Definitely surprising putt. Birdie on 11, I made about a ten-footer downhill to tie Ken for the lead, which was big for my momentum. And birdie on 14, hit a really good shot about eight feet. I knew it was one of those times when I just had to make it.

Transcripts provided by ASAP Sports

April 23, 2007

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