Watney has pole position

By: abadam


Nick Watney starts the race for the $10 million FedExCup play-offs prize from the pole position as overall points leader heading into the opening round of The Barclays at Plainfield Country Club.

Lurking just off the pace are heavyweights including world number one Luke Donald, number three Steve Stricker and the world’s sixth-ranked Phil Mickelson among the 123-man field.

Watney, twice a winner this year on the US PGA Tour, begins the four-event, season-ending series with an edge, but the 30-year-old Californian knows how quick things can change.

“Pole position is a good analogy, because you have to play well to stay there,” Watney said. “It’s nice to start there, but obviously a lot can happen.”

Just two years ago, unheralded American Heath Slocum crept into a 125-man field as the 124th-ranked player but edged Tiger Woods on the final hole for The Barclays victory and catapulted to third in the standings.

The top 100 players in the points list qualify for next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, with the leading 70 there reaching the BMW Championship. The top 30 qualify for the Tour Championship finale.

The overall points winner pockets the eight-figure bonus.

Mickelson, winner of four Majors, views the FedExCup crown as something special after calling his 2009 Tour Championship victory one of his better wins that year.

“But it wasn’t enough to win the FedExCup,” lamented Mickelson, who finished behind Woods in the play-offs. “It would be pretty cool to be able to do that. I have not done that yet and I would like to.”

Winning The Barclays would be a great first step, but will require mastering a course the features fast, sloping greens, tree-lined fairways, heavy rough and a reachable par-four 18th that could produce high-drama at the finish.

“It will be real exciting,” Watney said about the uphill hole that is expected to be played from about 285 yards. “A guy leading by one shot, a lot can happen. If he hits a poor shot, he can lose a tournament outright.”

Mickelson, known to go for broke on the golf course, predictably raved about the finishing hole.

“It’s terrific,” the big left-hander said. “If I ask anybody to think of your favorite hole, it’s (usually) either a par-three under 150 yards or a drivable par-four, occasionally a reachable par-five.”

Last week’s winner of the Wyndham Championship, Webb Simpson, said the opportunity to post an eagle at the last would increase the tension.

“When you’re two back coming to the last hole, you’re certainly not out of it,” he said.

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