Nick Watney won the AT&T National yesterday, moved to No. 10 in the world and to the PGA Tour money list for the first time in his career.
Watney closed with a 4-under-par 66 on a steamy afternoon at Aronimink GC, making three big par saves and three birdies on the front nine to seize control, then holding off a charge by K.J. Choi for a two-shot victory.
With only 27 holes left in the tournament, Watney was trying to keep from getting left behind. Ten birdies, an eagle, and no bogeys later, he was posing with the silver trophy of a Liberty Bell and wondering how much better he could get.
“It’s a very addictive feeling to be out there and under the gun,’’ said Watney, who had a 62-66 weekend at Aronimink. “To be able to hit good shots and putts is why I play.’’
Watney finished at 13-under 267, tying the tournament record by Tiger Woods in 2009 when it was played at Congressional. The tournament is scheduled to return to Congressional next year.
Charles Howell earned quite a consolation prize. He played bogey-free in the final round for a 6-under 66 to tie for third with Adam Scott (68) and Jeff Overton (67). That made him eligible for the British Open in two weeks as the top finisher from the top five who wasn’t already exempt.
Rickie Fowler, who shared the lead with Watney going into the final round, had another learning experience. He fell out of the hunt early with a double bogey on the second hole and closed with a 74 to tie for 13th.
“I just couldn’t get anything going,’’ Fowler said.
Watney didn’t give anyone much of a chance.
He took the outright lead with a wedge into 10 feet for birdie on No. 2, and holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 fifth. Despite leaving himself in a tough spot in the bunker on the par-5 ninth, he blasted out to 2 feet for another birdie.
Even so, his biggest putts were for par.
Watney saved par from bunkers on No. 4 with a 20-foot putt, and from No. 7 with a putt from about 12 feet. His biggest par save might have been the par-3 eighth, which yielded only two birdies in the final round.
Overton had reached 9 under and was making a move, and Choi had birdied the previous to also reach 9 under. Watney’s shot went over the green, and he putted up the slope to 18 feet. He made the par putt to keep his cushion.
Watney earned $1.116 million and became the first player this year to top $4 million on tour. His other win came at the World Golf Championship at Doral.
“I’m overjoyed,’’ he said. “K.J. played great golf and he kept coming and coming. And that makes it even more rewarding.’’