Paul Anthony Arco

The Takeaway

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Philadelphia Freedom

Sunday, July 03, 2011

To many, Independence Day is a time for fireworks, picnics and parades.

For Nick Watney, it means being No. 1.

That's where the American golfer finds himself in the FedExCup standings, after shooting a bogey-free 66 Sunday to beat K.J. Choi by two strokes, and win the AT&T National at Aronimink Golf Club outside of Philadelphia.

Watney, the highest-ranked player at the AT&T National, tied the tournament record 13-under 267 by Tiger Woods in 2009 when it was played at Congressional. He has eight top-10s this year, which ties Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald for most on the PGA TOUR.

Choi finished 11-under 269 and Charles Howell III, Jeff Overton and Adam Scott finished T3 at 9-under 271.

It was the second victory this season for the wide-eyed Watney, who tamed the Blue Monster at Doral in March to win the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. He now has four PGA TOUR career victories.

The fireworks started Saturday when Watney set a course-record 8-under 62 during the third round, including an 8-under 27 on Aronimink's back nine, which fell one short of Corey Pavin's 26 at the U.S. Bank Championship in 2006.

Watney's putting was the difference on Sunday. He took the lead with a birdie on No. 2, and drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 No. 5. He saved par from bunkers on No. 4 with a 20-foot putt, and from No. 7 with a putt from 11 feet.

Despite his fourth runner-up finish of his career, Choi moved up to No. 2 in the FedExCup standings, trailing only Watney. Making his 300th-career start on the PGA TOUR, Choi nailed a pair of long birdie putts on No. 12 and No. 14, the last one tied Watney for the lead. But it didn't last, as he double bogeyed No. 15.

The fan favorite coming into Sunday had to be Rickie Fowler, who was looking for his first PGA TOUR win. The third-round co-leader (with Watney), the baby-faced 22-year-old bowed out early Sunday with a double bogey on the second hole. He ended his day with a 4-over 74 to finish T13.

Watney joins Mark Wilson and Bubba Watson as the only multiple winners on the PGA TOUR this season.

And soon, it won't be long before we're talking about his first major championship.

Young Gun

Patrick Cantlay is having quite the summer vacation.

In the last five weeks, Cantlay has played in the NCAA Championships, Palmer Cup, U.S. Open and the Travelers Championship, where he set a course record with a 60 in the second round.

The 19-year-old amateur continued to turn heads on the PGA TOUR with a 3-under 67 Sunday to finish the AT&T National at 3-under 277 and a T20.

Cantlay broke par twice, including a second-round 69, to make the cut. He is the ninth amateur since 1980 with three or more made cuts on the PGA TOUR. Phil Mickelson had seven in 1991. Cantlay will be a sophomore at UCLA this fall.

Levet wins

Thomas Levet shot a 1-under 70 to win the French Open, beating Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark and Mark Foster of England by a stroke. Martin Kaymer (73) finished fourth three strokes back.

Levet, the 2002 British Open runner-up, made four birdies and three bogeys Sunday for a 7-under total of 277 for his sixth career title.

He is now exempt for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in August.

Ouch, babe

Ernie Els, who has missed the cut in four out of his last six starts, withdrew from the AT&T National due to back strain … Kevin Sutherland's season may be over after he tripped on a rope at the driving range and hit his head on the ground at the Valero Texas Open. He managed to finish T11 that week, but missed the next three cuts. Most likely he will have a Major Medical Extension in 2012 … Vijay Singh, who was two under through two rounds and only five strokes off the lead after 36 holes at the AT&T National, withdrew before his round Saturday, also complaining of a sore back. He will miss the Open Championship at Royal St. George's Golf Club. It will be the second straight major that Singh has missed after 67 straight major appearances.

Stray Shots

Travelers Championship winner Fredrik Jacobson and FedEx St. Jude Classic champ Harrison Frazar punched their ticket to the Open Championship. They were the top two players, not previously eligible, from a cumulative money list including six tournaments (THE PLAYERS Championship, The Memorial, FedEx St. Jude Classic, U.S. Open, Travelers Championship and the AT&T National) ... Charles Howell III's T3 made him eligible for the Open Championship as the best finisher from the top five who wasn't already exempt ... Robert Allenby finished T6 for his third top-10 finish of the season. He also had a hole-in-one on the par-3 No. 16. It was the eighth of his career … Scott finished T3 for his third top 10 of the season and the first since finishing runner-up at the Masters in April … Scott's first round co-leader Hunter Haas (66) finished T51 with a score of 283 … Choi's 64 was the second-round best … The third-round low score was Watney (62) and Chris DiMarco finished T13 thanks to a final-round low score 64 … Chris Stroud finished T6 for his second top 10 of the year … Bryce Molder finished T8 for his third top-10 finish … Chris Kirk, a PGA TOUR rookie, finished T8, including a third-round 63. Among those missing the cut this week were Jim Furyk, Tommy Gainey, Keegan Bradley and Camilo Villegas.

Paul Anthony Arco is a freelance writer and contributor to He is host of The Golf Show!, which airs Saturday mornings on WNTA 1330 AM ( in Rockford, Ill. Paul can be reached at
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