Devil Ball Golf - Golf

If there's anybody in golf who's happy about the last-second PGA Championship meltdown -- other than Martin Kaymer*, of course -- it would have to be Nick Watney.

Why? Because Watney takes pleasure in the suffering of Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson? Of course not. (We assume.) No, Watney has to be at least slightly relieved at the rules craziness and playoff for a simple reason: It took all the heat off him for his total collapse early Sunday.

Watney, you'll recall, entered Sunday with a three-shot lead. And almost immediately, that lead blew away like sand from a Whistling Straits "bunker." He double-bogeyed the first, bogeyed the fourth, double-bogeyed the seventh -- hang on, we're just getting started -- made the turn at 7-over, double-bogeyed the 11th ... he finished with a 9-over 81, an utter debacle made better only by the fact that he carded two late birdies on 16 and 17.  

Unlike Johnson's debacle at the U.S. Open, Watney was spared the camera's eye because there wasn't one single player holding down the lead, the way Graeme McDowell did at Pebble Beach. There was enough happening all over the course; CBS didn't need to focus on Watney's self-disemboweling.

So that takes Watney off the hook in the public eye. But what about inside his own head? That's the tricky part. I'd bet Watney hasn't shot in the 80s often in his professional career. (He did on the Sunday of the U.S. Open, but you can almost excuse that as an aberration.) How does he shake off this embarrassment -- and make no mistake, that's what it is for a guy at this level -- and refocus? 

Watney doesn't have a sterling bounceback record. Since the start of the 2007 season, he's missed 22 cuts, and only once has he come back the next event to post a quality finish -- this time last year, when he missed the cut at the PGA and then tied for sixth at the Barclays.

But let's take a longer view. Over that same span of seasons, he's missed nine, six, five and two (and counting) cuts. That's a pretty convincing trend line. So while he may not instantly get his game back, he's still one of the best young golfers on tour, and it's fairly likely he'll be back atop a leaderboard somewhere soon. It may not be a major -- obviously, it won't be until 2011 -- but in the short term, that's not the point. An athlete has to have a short memory, and Watney would do well to remember the PGA as a tournament where he earned $85 grand, not a one where he ... oh, boy, he probably shouldn't even look at the money list.

And hey, it could be worse. He could have missed a putt to win it all. That's the kind of stuff that sticks in a man's mind. 

* -- He's the guy who won the PGA. I know, I had to look it up too.

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