on my heels, and the putter shaft was very flat, and that
caused me to kind of stroke in-to-out. He got me a little bit
more on the balls of my feet, and the putter tracks much
better now.” Ranked 122nd in strokes gained/putting in
2012, Watney was T- 16 at the Barclays despite three three-putts Sunday. “It’s definitely the best I’ve putted all year
by far,” Watney said.
Watney inserted himself into the Barclays plot from the
outset, shooting a first-round 65 on a docile setup that trailed
only a 64 by Padraig Harrington, for whom a victory was
essential if he were to have a shot of being one of José Maria
Olazábal’s two selections for Europe’s Ryder Cup squad.
Playing the seventh hole as a par 5 instead of a par 4 as was
the case in the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens helped scoring,
but mostly it was a case of soft greens, no wind and bouncy
fairways that effectively shortened the 7,468-yard course.
“Miles shorter” than the soggy-turf ’09 Open was Watney’s
assessment. All week short-iron approaches weren’t uncommon on the usually rugged 15th hole, a 478-yard par 4 with an
elevated green. Graham DeLaet, for instance, jarred a 9-iron
from 161 yards there for an eagle Sunday en route to a 65 and
T- 5 finish. He made the biggest leap (106th to 44th) of the six
players who began the Barclays outside the top 100 in the
FedEx Cup standings and advanced to the Deutsche Bank
Championship by virtue of their play at Bethpage.
Woods and McIlroy, in a pairing that drew most of the
early attention, shot respective opening rounds of 68 and 69,
two of 34 Thursday scores in the 60s. A mutual affinity was
evidenced by frequent conversations and the duo’s easy way
with each other. On Friday, though, Woods grimaced his way
around Bethpage with a stiff and painful lower back that he
traced to sleeping on a soft hotel-room mattress.
He had worked out the kinks by the weekend but was
pained by other issues. Woods putted dreadfully Saturday
on greens drastically firmer and faster than they had been
as a freshening breeze and lessening humidity compounded
the tour’s desire for a stout test. “I wouldn’t say it was
unfair. It was borderline,” Garcia said of the third-round
conditions, which still yielded 19 scores in the 60s but
were markedly easier for morning starters. The eighth,
14th and 18th greens were particular horrors, their crispy
surfaces “Stimping about 20 around the hole,” according
to Harrington. And few players could stop a ball on the
green of the par- 3 17th despite hitting mostly 6- or 7-irons.