AMERICAN NICK WATNEY triumphed in The Barclays tournament last night, closing with a two-under 69 to capture the opening event in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Watney, who began the final round two shots back, finished at 10-under 274 to claim the title by three strokes at the Bethpage course, as overnight leader Sergio Garcia faded with a four-over par 75 into a tie for third.
“I’ve been working hard,” said Watney. “I’m very pleased how I drove the ball down the stretch. Any time you win it’s great for your confidence. I’m so thrilled and very proud of this week.”
The win moves Watney into first place in the PGA Tour’s playoff points race with three more FedEx Cup events to play.
Padraig Harrington went one better than the winner, closing with a round of 68. However, with a 75 on both Friday and Saturday, the Dubliner was never likely to trouble the leaders – or the Ryder Cup rumours – on Sunday.
Harrington’s Sunday round once again showed the folly of his exclusion, the treble major winner carded just one bogey with five birdies including one to close. Garcia meanwhile, one of Harrington’s chief detractors, ended his title challenge with five bogies.
Speaking afterwards, Harrington was clearly disappointed at his expected snub:
“I’m playing well.” Harrington told SkySports, “”What more can I do? I’m happy with that any way – I’d rather be playing badly and picked, but I’m happy that I’m playing well.
“It will be easier to talk about it after tomorrow. I don’t want to give an opinion on not making it or anything like that until it officially happens. I’ve played six, I’ve won four out of six, I’d dearly love to be there.”
Like Watney, Brandt Snedeker is trying to land a spot on the US Ryder Cup team. He shot a one-under 70 and took second at seven-under par.
Third-round leader Garcia, aiming for back-to-back tournament wins, shared third with defending champ Dustin Johnson, who fired a three-under 68 to reach a six-under 278 total. Garcia was three over par on the back nine Sunday.
Tiger Woods had a day he would like to forget. Woods, who lost his PGA Tour playoffs points race lead, posted a five-over 76 and finished in a tie for 38th, stumbling down the stretch to shoot 40 on the back nine.
A 10-foot birdie putt on the 14th had allowed Watney to take the wind out of the sails of his challengers.
He dropped a stroke with a bogey on 16 and then made par on 17, but Garcia shot a bogey on 18, allowing Watney to close out a comfortable victory at the 18th.
“I made more putts than I made all year,” Watney said.
‘See where the chips fall’
Beating one of the most difficult fields of the year on a demanding course puts Watney in contention to be one of four captain’s picks for the American team that will compete in the Ryder Cup September 28-30 in Chicago. Davis Love III will announce his choices after next week’s playoff tournament.
“The Ryder Cup is out of my control,” said Watney.
“All I can do is try and get ready to play next week and see where the chips fall. I’m thinking about it much more now. Someone told me Davis wanted a hot player.”