Though Watson was beaten in a play-off for the 2010 PGA Championship by Germany’s Martin Kaymer, he looks back at that near miss as the moment he realised he could compete toe-to-toe with the game’s best players.
“It just showed that I have the ability to play golf in a tough competition like that,” the American world number three said yesterday. “Have the ability to perform at a high level, under stressful situations.
“I think I shot in the 60s in the last round, played great. Birdied the first hole in the play-off under pressure. I did everything I was supposed to do, except one guy beat me.
“That just shows I have the ability to perform on a tough set-up and tough golf course under a lot of stress. It gave me confidence in all parts of my game, in every tournament, not just majors.”
Watson closed with a 68 in 2010 and matched Kaymer with a birdie on the first extra hole before his title bid evaporated on the next hole after he struck his second shot into a creek in front of the green on the way to a double-bogey six.
The left-hander will never forget, however, how nervous he felt going into that week.
“In 2010 I was still new to the game, I never had a win until two weeks before the PGA Championship,” he said. “I was scared to death playing PGA Championships and majors.”
Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth has another opportunity to replace Rory McIlroy as world number one this week, but this time has more than one option.
With McIlroy absent through injury, Spieth could have overtaken the four-time major winner in the world rankings with victory in either the Open Championship or WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
And although McIlroy, 26, has returned from an ankle injury in time to defend his US PGA Championship title, Masters and US Open champion Spieth could claim top spot by finishing “only” outright third at Whistling Straits if McIlroy misses the cut.
If McIlroy wins or is second alone his position is secure, but below are all the scenarios by which 22-year-old Spieth would become number one:
Spieth wins and McIlroy is not second alone.
Spieth is second alone and McIlroy is not in the top six.
Spieth is tied second with one other player and McIlroy is not in the top 13.
Spieth is tied second with two others and McIlroy is not in the top 33.
Spieth is third alone and McIlroy misses the cut.
If Spieth finishes lower than third alone, McIlroy will remain at the top of the rankings.
The world’s top two have been drawn together for the first two rounds of the year’s final major tomorrow and Friday, along with Open champion Zach Johnson.