Daily Wrap-up: Round 4, The Barclays

August 26, 2012
Staff and wire reports

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Nick Watney salvaged a dismal season Sunday at The Barclays with a victory that could not have come at a better time.


Watney turned a two-shot deficit against Sergio Garcia into a three-shot lead in a decisive four-hole stretch around the turn at Bethpage State Park Black Course, and no one got closer than two shots the rest of the way. Watney made a 10-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 2-under 69 to capture the opening event in the FedExCup Playoffs.

With the win, Watney takes over the top spot in the FedExCup standings for the first time since the final week of the 2011 Regular Season.

He wound up winning by three shots over Brandt Snedeker, who birdied the last hole for a 70. Garcia made bogey on the 18th for a 75.

With the top spot in the FedExCup standings, Watney is assured a shot at the $10 million prize at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola next month. It could also be a big step toward an event that doesn't pay anything at all -- the Ryder Cup.

Winning against one of the strongest fields of the year at least puts him in the conversation to be one of four captain's picks for the Sept. 28-30 matches at Medinah. Davis Love III will announce his choices after next week's Deutsche Bank Championship.

Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk are likely to be two of those picks, and the other two are suddenly wide open.

Snedeker, already under consideration, battled to the end on a warm day on Long Island. He made a 15-foot par putt on the 17th hole and closed with a birdie to be alone in second place. Complicating matters for Love is that Dustin Johnson shot 68 and tied for third, along with Garcia.

Watney, who won for the fifth time in his career, finished on 10-under 278.

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Here are the top five players following The Barclays:
1 Nick Watney
2 Brandt Snedeker
3 Tiger Woods
4 Rory McIlroy
5 Zach Johnson

In what amounted to a duel with Garcia for so much of the day, Watney fell two shots behind after he three-putted for bogey on the fifth hole and Garcia made a 40-footer for birdie on the next hole. Garcia, going for his second straight PGA TOUR win, never had much of a chance after that.

Watney two-putted for birdie on the seventh. On the par-3 eighth, Garcia scrambled for bogey from the bunker, while Watney holed a bending, 30-foot birdie putt to take his first lead of the day. Another two-shot swing followed on the 10th, when Garcia three-putted and Watney hit a beautiful approach to 4 feet for birdie.

Both were sloppy on the back nine, but Watney hit all the right shots and seized control for good with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 14th.

"I made more putts than I made all year," Watney said.

He credits that to some tips from Darrell Kestner, the respected club pro at nearby Deepdale, a lesson set up by a friend. Kestner worked on his setup, mainly keeping Watney from leaning to far back on his heels.

"It paid off," Watney said.

Tiger Woods, six shots behind at the start of the day, never made a move. He alternated between bogeys and birdies until the sixth hole, and his round imploded on the back nine with a three-putt double bogey on the 12th, a poor wedge that led to bogey on the par-5 13th, and a tee shot on the par-3 14th that sailed over the green and one-hopped against the gallery. He closed with a 76 and tied for 38th.

It was his third 72-hole tournament over par this year, the other two coming at majors.

Bethpage Black didn't feel like one on Sunday.

After a third round in which several players felt the greens were close to dead and nearly impossible to putt, there was plenty of water on them overnight. High scores were more a product of bad play, and it was difficult for anyone to make up too much ground because conditions were comparable throughout the day.

And while it was effectively a two-man race for much of the day, there was plenty at stake in the race for the FedExCup.

Only the top 100 players advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship for the second of four Playoffs events. The biggest move belonged to Graham DeLaet of Canada, who started the week at No. 106 and was right on the bubble going into the final round.

It turned out way better than DeLaet could have imagined. Despite back-to-back bogeys on the front nine, he answered with four birdies on his next seven holes, and then holed out with on the 15th for eagle with a 9-iron from 161 yards. He closed with two birdies for a Sunday-best 65.

Not only did he advance, DeLaet moved up 62 spots to No. 44 and should be safe for the next two tournaments.

"I guess a lot of people think there's too much volatility in it, but it was in my favor," DeLaet said. "If you can have one really good event, you can catapult yourself up. And now I feel I have a chance to get into the TOUR Championship, where this morning I was just hoping to play next week."

It was a good day for another Canadian -- David Hearn. Playing with Woods, he closed with a 71 and moved from No. 108 to No. 67. The other four from outside the top 100 who moved in were Jonas Blixt, Tommy Gainey and Jason Day, who closed with a 66.

Bethpage Black: Round 4
The par-5 seventh hole was the easiest with a Sunday scoring average of 4.267.
The par-4 fifth hole was the toughest with a Sunday scoring average of 4.387.
About the champion: Nick Watney
• Watney collects 2,500 points and moves from No. 49 to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings, with 3,225 points. He leads Brandt Snedeker by 532 points.
• Watney moves into the top 10 in FedExCup points for the first time this season. He finished the 2011 FedExCup ranked No. 9 after starting the Playoffs ranked No. 1.
• Of Watney's five victories, three have been in come-from-behind fashion. He entered the final round on Sunday trailing Sergio Garcia by two strokes. He overcame a five-shot deficit at the 2009 Farmers Insurance Open and a two-stroke deficit at the 2011 World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
• Watney was ranked No. 1 in the FedExCup standings after the PGA TOUR Regular Season last year and finished ninth, his best showing since the FedExCup began in 2007. He posted a T10 finish in The Barclays 2011, his second top 10 at the event. His best Barclays performance was a T6 in 2009.
• Watney missed the cut at the 2009 U.S. Open held at Bethpage Black (73-73).

The odd man out was John Mallinger, who started the week at No. 88 and missed the cut. He became the highest-seeded player to fail to advance since this FedExCup Playoffs system began in 2007.