Nick Watney wins Zurich Classic

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Nick Watney won the Zurich Classic for his first US PGA Tour title, closing with a 3-under 69 on Sunday for a three-stroke victory over Ken Duke.

Updated: April 24, 2007 17:03 IST
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Nick Watney won the Zurich Classic for his first US PGA Tour title, closing with a 3-under 69 on Sunday for a three-stroke victory over Ken Duke.

Watney, the 25-year-old American in his third year on the tour, had a 15-under 273 total at the TPC Louisiana. Duke, who also was seeking his first victory, shot a 70.

"I'm living a dream right now," Watney said, wearing Mardi Gras beads as winners in New Orleans traditionally 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."

Watney, fifth in two tournaments last year, lost the lead 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.

On the 14th, Duke's tee shot landed short and left of the green, his chip went 7 feet past the pin and he missed the par putt coming back to fall two shots behind.

Watney parred the final four holes, missing the fairway only once off the tee and hitting every green in regulation.

"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.

After Watney tapped in to seal the victory, his celebration was subdued. He held aloft both arms and hugged his caddie before clapping above his head in appreciation of the crowd.

Watney had never before teed off with the lead in the final round of a US tour event, and he hadn't slept as well as he usually does, waking up around 5:30 am.

He bogeyed Nos 3 and 4, but then holed the shot of the tournament - a 132-yard approach shot for an eagle on the par-4 fifth - to pull back into a tie for the lead.

"I was definitely nervous to start out, but it's a good thing," Watney said. "I mean, any time you hole a shot there's a little luck involved, so it was definitely my week. I'm proud that I was able to handle it."

Fifth first-time winner

Watney became the fifth first-time winner in the last six years at New Orleans' annual PGA Tour event, joining Chris Couch (2006), Tim Petrovic (2005), Steve Flesch (2003) and KJ Choi (2002). All of them won at English Turn except Watney and Petrovic, the only other winner at the TPC Louisiana, which hosted its first PGA Tour event in 2005, only months before it was severely damage by Hurricane Katrina.

The course, its fairways flooded because of drain clogging debris that included 2,000 fallen trees, was closed for 10 months for $2 million (euro1.47 million) in repairs to 30 acres of damaged turf.

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