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Nick Watney Wins PGA Tour’s First Playoff Event by Three Shots

Nick Watney turned around his season with a three-shot win at The Barclays tournament, the first of the U.S. PGA Tour’s four FedExCup playoff events.

After a breakthrough 2011 season in which he won twice, the 31-year-old Watney had finished better than 10th in one of his previous 20 stroke-play events this year.

He changed that yesterday at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, New York, shooting a 2-under-par 69 to surge past third-round leader Sergio Garcia and claim his fifth PGA Tour title. The victory puts him in position to challenge for the $10 million bonus awarded to the playoffs winner and also may help him contend for a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

“It’s been not quite the year I would have wanted, but this really makes it all forgotten,” Watney said at a news conference following yesterday’s final round.

Watney birdied four of the first 10 holes to move atop the leaderboard and finished with a four-round total of 10-under-par 274, three better than Brandt Snedeker. Garcia, who had started the final round with a two-shot lead, tied for third with last year’s winner Dustin Johnson.

Garcia, who was seeking back-to-back titles after his victory at the Wyndham Championship, shot a 4-over 75 yesterday to finish 6 under for the tournament.

The top 125 golfers in the season-long FedExCup standings qualified for the Barclays. The field is now cut to 100 for the Deutsche Bank Championship, which is held Aug. 31 to Sept. 3 outside Boston, and then to 70 for the BMW Championship in Carmel, Indiana. The top 30 players in the standings reach the Sept. 20-23 Tour Championship in Atlanta, where the FedExCup winner receives a $10 million bonus.

Standings Lead

Watney’s victory puts him atop the standings and assures him a spot in the Tour Championship. He’s followed by Snedeker, Tiger Woods and PGA Championship winner Rory McIlroy.

“Since the playoffs have been formatted this way, this tournament has proven to be maybe the biggest of the four, just because you play well here, you can move so far,” Watney said.

Woods, who entered the playoffs leading the FedExCup standings, shot 5-over-par in the final round to finish in a tie for 38th place at 1-over. Woods shot rounds of 72 and 76 on the weekend after opening with scores of 68 and 69.

Phil Mickelson also closed with a 76 to finish 1-over, while McIlroy, who leads golf’s Official World Ranking, tied for 24th at 1-under par.

Watney, who won the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship and the AT&T National in 2011, sealed his victory on the final hole with a birdie putt of almost 11 feet. He credited his putting improvement during the week to minor changes that came from working with a local professional, Darrell Kestner of Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, New York.

Ryder Cup Mix

Watney’s win may also improve his chances of being one of the four discretionary selections of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. Snedeker, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Rickie Fowler and Johnson are among the other top players who didn’t earn one of the eight automatic spots on the U.S. squad for the biennial team competition against Europe. This year’s event is scheduled for Sept. 28-30 at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago.

“Coming in here, I didn’t deserve to be in the conversation, because I had not played my way in,” Watney said. “Someone told me that Davis said he wanted a hot player, and we still have a week to go. I’d love to be on the team.”

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