Watney living his dream with Zurich Classic win
Nick Watney offered a slight wave to the applauding crowd as he walked away from his par putt on the 17th hole, then took a deep breath, his cheeks puffing as he exhaled.
There was only one hole to go for his first career PGA Tour triumph, not to mention a check for nearly $1.1 million.
He was nervous, he admitted later, but not that nervous.
"I loved being in this position," Watney said. "That's one of the funnest things about it is to be in position and pull it off and conquer your nerves."
Five strokes later, the lanky, clean-cut Californian tapped in for another par on No. 18, smiled broadly as he raised his arms, then hugged his caddie. The 25-year-old, now in his third year on the Tour, had prolonged a recent pattern of first-time winners at the Zurich Classic.
Watney closed with a 3-under-par 69 yesterday for a three-stroke victory over Ken Duke. The winner had a 15-under 273 total on the TPC Louisiana layout in Avondale, La.
"I'm living a dream right now," Watney said, wearing Mardi Gras beads as winners in New Orleans do. "I've played in close to the last group sometimes, and I've seen guys go through it. But it's definitely more fun to actually do it. I'm trying to soak it all in."
Duke, 38, who also was seeking his first victory, shot a 70.
Watney lost the lead to Duke when he missed a 3-foot par putt on the par-4 10th. He bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 11th and went in front for good with a birdie on the par-3 14th.
Watney was unflappable during the final four holes, missing the fairway only once off the tee and hitting every green in regulation. Duke struggled just to keep pace.
"I knew if I could get it to one coming to 18 I thought I had a chance, but he had two on me, and he played smart, and that's what you've got to do," Duke said.
Watney became the fifth first-time winner in the last six years at New Orleans's annual PGA Tour event, joining Chris Couch (2006), Tim Petrovic (2005), Steve Flesch (2003), and K.J. Choi (2002).
Mark Calcavecchia shot a 71 to tie for fifth with Bubba Watson and Chris Stroud at 10 under.
Tour rookie Anthony Kim had the best round of the day, a 65. The round of nine birdies and two bogeys left the 21-year-old Californian tied for third with John Mallinger at 11 under.
Champions -- Defending champion Jay Haas won the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in Savannah, Ga., making up four shots in the final eight holes before beating Tom Kite in a playoff for his second Champions victory this season.
"I certainly didn't think I'd be here," Haas said. "Everything just happened so quickly."
He closed with a 2-under 70 for a three-round total of 207, then won on the first extra hole for his eighth senior circuit victory. Kite (68) had been 3-0 in senior playoffs.
There was a four-way tie for third at 208: Wayne Levi (70), Brad Bryant (70), Gil Morgan (67), and Mark James (70), the first-round leader.
For Haas, who also has nine wins on the PGA Tour, this was the first time he successfully defended a championship.
"My game has aged well," Haas said. "My ball-striking has been consistent. But I'm a lot better putter than I used to be. I kind of wish I'd changed my putting style when I was younger."
European/Asian -- Raphael Jacquelin led from start to finish to win the Asian Open by two strokes over Soren Kjeldsen (73) in Shanghai.
Jacquelin shot a 1-over 73 in the storm-affected final round to finish at 10 under.
Despite the start being moved up to 6:30 a.m. to avoid a forecast thunderstorm, players still battled rain and fierce winds. Jacquelin was fortunate to start strong before the wind and rain blew in, picking up three birdies on the front nine. With the changing weather playing havoc with his approaches, he conceded bogeys on four of the last six holes.