Watney takes two stroke lead
Last updated: 30th November 2012
An excellent display of putting from Nick Watney moved him two shots clear at the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California, on Thursday.
The American birdied four of the last six holes at Sherwood Country Club to fire five-under par round of 67 on a day that only four of the elite 18-man field broke 70.
"I played pretty well on the back nine," Watney noted after the round.
"The front nine was a little sloppy. My short game is definitely where I need it to improve for next year. I've kind of been getting into that a little bit, and it helped me today."
When asked by reporters if he still had other areas of his game he felt he could improve upon, Watney replied: "For me personally, I can always get better at chipping.
"I'm not at the top of the tour in chipping stats, that's for sure. So that is a huge key, especially in this month of December for me.
"But putting can hide a lot of things," said Watney, who made 27 putts on Thursday.
"If you make a lot of eight and 10-footers, you don't have to chip it as well as other guys, so that's definitely a huge key."
In a tie for second place is fellow Americans Keegan Bradley and Jim Furyk, as well as Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.
Watney's form improved dramatically ahead of the US Open this year, when he worked with swing coach Butch Harmon for a week.
He had a string of consistent performances following his sessions with Harmon and then went on to win the fifth PGA Tour title of his career at the Barclays tournament in August and then triumphed at the PGA Tour co-sanctioned CIMB Classic in Malaysia last month.
"After spending some time with Butch, something kind of clicked there, and I started playing much better," the world number 16 said.
"I think that was kind of the turnaround.
"Now I want to keep going higher (in the world rankings). Tiger and (top-ranked) Rory (McIlroy) are very impressive, and all the top players, they continue to strive to get better.
"That's my goal, is to really try to get better and really try and get in contention as much as I can. The more you're there (in contention), the more you win, and that's the best part about playing on the Tour - winning."
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