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Watney's round got stuck in neutral

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  September 5, 2011 01:00 AM

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NORTON - Fame is a funny concept. It’s relative, and in the case of Nick Watney and our local PGA Tour stop, it is completely relative - as in defined by whom he is related to.

Most places Watney goes he is recognized for being one of the best American golfers in the game. He is second on the PGA Tour’s money list with nearly $4.6 million in earnings, has nine top-10 finishes in 18 tournaments, and has won twice this year, tying him with four other players for the most on tour. But when Watney walks the greens at TPC Boston for the Deutsche Bank Championship, he isn’t famous for his accomplishments with his clubs.

Nope, he is famous because of the club his cousin covers. He’s not Nick Watney, golf star. He’s Cousin of Heidi [Watney], the intrepid Red Sox reporter for NESN. He swings for a living. Heidi covers swings for a living. On Heidi’s Twitter page, she trumpets the fact that she is Nick’s cousin. Here it is the other way around.

That’s why TPC Boston must feel like an alternate dimension to 30-year-old Watney, a San Francisco Giants fan, according to his PGA bio. He’s a professional athlete. His pulchritudinous cousin merely covers professional athletes, yet the later makes Heidi more notable in New England.

If Watney wasn’t aware of his cousin’s star status, he was made aware of it yesterday when he eagled the par-5 second hole to move to 11 under and sole possession of the lead. Afterward, a wise guy from the gallery shouted, “Where’s Heidi?’’

“She is definitely close to a celebrity here,’’ said Watney, who had a roller-coaster round of 71 that left him right where he started yesterday, 8 under. “I think we’ve been here six days now, so I’m kind of getting used to it, for sure. I’m glad she is doing so well. She came out [Saturday] and caused a stir.’’

Would a win here change the local Q ratings for the Watneys? Probably not, but it’s not out of reach for Watney, even after a bewildering up-and-down round yesterday. Watney’s 71 left him within striking distance for today, tied for 12th, three shots in back of leader Bubba Watson.

Early on it looked like it was Watney, paired with Zac Efron doppelganger Rickie Fowler, he of the Crayola box golf couture, that would tee off on top of the leaderboard on Labor Day.

He went out on the front nine in 3-under 33. A birdie on the seventh negated a short par putt he missed on No. 5 and gave him a share of the lead at 11 under. But the back nine was not kind to Watney, as the wind picked up and he encountered the bogey-man to shoot 3-over 38.

“Definitely a disappointing back nine,’’ he said. “I didn’t make it too easy on myself. The golf course isn’t playing as easy as the first two days. The wind is up a little bit. But I made it a little tougher than it should be.

“It made it a bit trickier picking clubs out of here with gusts. I didn’t help myself a lot. The conditions got tougher, but I made it tougher than it should have been, so I guess we’ll see what happens.’’

Watney carded bogeys on 11 and 12, and made it three out of four holes on the wrong side of par when he bogeyed 14 to slip to 8 under. He nearly got a stroke back on a 30-foot birdie try on the par-3 16th - the hole that yielded a pair of aces on Saturday - but the ball hung on the lip of the cup, stubbornly refusing to budge like a disobedient dog who doesn’t want to be put outside on a chilly winter morning.

“You never really expect to make a 30-footer,’’ said Watney. “But at that point I really needed it, so it would have been nice.’’

That bit of bad luck loomed large when Watney, who had carded 67s in the first two rounds, bogeyed the 17th to drop to 7 under.

Heidi tweeted yesterday that she was trying to multitask and watch the Deutsche Bank action on her iPad at the Red Sox game - better than watching the game itself with the Sox getting bludgeoned, 11-4, by the Rangers - but she complained the PGA’s website wasn’t showing enough highlights of Nick.

Hopefully, Heidi was watching when Nick played the 18th. It was a save worthy of Jonathan Papelbon. The only thing missing was “Dirty Water’’ as Watney walked off the 18th hole.

It looked as if Watney was headed for a day as disappointing as the Red Sox had at Fenway when his tee shot on 18 missed the mark like Andrew Miller had thrown it, and landed in the fairway bunker. But Watney blasted out of the sand and then hit a well-placed wedge shot that landed a little more than a foot from the pin.

He drained the birdie putt to end a topsy-turvy round on even ground.

“That was nice,’’ said Watney. “I feel like I needed it. I did a lot of bad things, so to finally do something good was encouraging heading into tomorrow.’’

No word on whether Watney’s famous kin, Heidi, will be here for the final round today. The Sox are scheduled to be in Toronto to kick off a series with the Blue Jays.

Perhaps for Nick Watney it’s just as well if Heidi doesn’t attend. The gallery should be glued to his every move because today, he’s the Watney worth watching around here.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com and can be read at www.boston.com/sports/columnists/gasper Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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