FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Nick Watney salvaged a dismal season Sunday at The Barclays with a victory that could not have come at a better time.
Watney turned a two-shot deficit against Sergio Garcia into a three-shot lead in a decisive four-hole stretch around the turn at Bethpage Black, and no one got closer than two shots the rest of the way. Watney made a 10-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 2-under 69 to capture the opening playoff event for the FedExCup.
The Barclays kicks off the 2012 PGA Tour playoffs at Bethpage Black, the famous New York City public course that hosted the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2009.
He wound up winning by three shots over Brandt Snedeker, who birdied the last hole for a 70. Garcia made bogey on the 18th for a 75.
The win means Watney goes to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings and is assured a shot at the $10 million prize at the Tour Championship next month. Perhaps more importantly, it could be a big step toward an event that doesn't pay anything at all -- the Ryder Cup.
Winning against one of the strongest fields of the year at least puts him in the conversation to be one of four captain's picks for the Sept. 28-30 matches at Medinah. Davis Love III will announce his choices after next week's playoff event outside Boston.
Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk are likely to be two of those picks, and the other two are suddenly wide open.
Snedeker, already under consideration, battled to the end on a warm day on Long Island. He made a 15-foot par putt on the 17th hole and closed with a birdie to be alone in second place. Complicating matters for Love is that Dustin Johnson shot 68 and tied for third, along with Garcia.
Watney, who won for the fifth time in his career, finished on 10-under 278.
In what amounted to a duel with Garcia for so much of the day, Watney fell two shots behind after he three-putted for bogey on the fifth hole and Garcia made a 40-footer for birdie on the next hole. Garcia, going for his second straight PGA Tour win, never had much of a chance after that.
Watney two-putted for birdie on the seventh. On the par-3 eighth, Garcia scrambled for bogey from the bunker, while Watney holed a bending, 30-foot birdie putt to take his first lead of the day. Another two-shot swing followed on the 10th, when Garcia three-putted and Watney hit a beautiful approach to 4 feet for birdie.
Both were sloppy on the back nine, but Watney hit all the right shots and seized control for good with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 14th.
"I made more putts than I made all year," Watney said.
He credits that to some tips from Darrell Kestner, the respected PGA Professional at nearby Deepdale, a lesson set up by a friend. Kestner worked on his setup, mainly keeping Watney from leaning too far back on his heels.
"It paid off," Watney said.
Tiger Woods, six shots behind at the start of the day, never made a move. He alternated between bogeys and birdies until the sixth hole, and his round imploded on the back nine with a three-putt double bogey on the 12th, a poor wedge that led to bogey on the par-5 13th, and a tee shot on the par-3 14th that sailed over the green and one-hopped against the gallery. He closed with a 76 and tied for 38th.
Woods left without speaking to CBS Sports or any other media. It was this third 72-hole tournament over par this year, the other two coming at majors.
Bethpage Black didn't feel like one on Sunday.
After a third round in which several players felt the greens were close to dead and nearly impossible to putt, there was plenty of water on them overnight. High scores were more a product of bad play, and it was difficult for anyone to make up too much ground because conditions were comparable throughout the day.
And while it was effectively a two-man race for much of the day, there was plenty at stake in the FedExCup.
Only the top 100 players advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship for the second of four playoff events. The biggest move belonged to Graham DeLaet of Canada, who started the week at No. 106 and was right on the bubble going into the final round.
It turned out way better than DeLaet could have imagined. Despite back-to-back bogeys on the front nine, he answered with four birdies on his next seven holes, and then holed out with on the 15th for eagle with a 9-iron from 161 yards. He closed with two birdies for a Sunday-best 65.
Not only did he advance, DeLaet moved up 62 spots to No. 44 and should be safe for the next two tournaments.
"I guess a lot of people think there's too much volatility in it, but it was in my favor," DeLaet said. "If you can have one really good event, you can catapult yourself up. And now I feel I have a chance to get into the Tour Championship, where this morning I was just hoping to play next week."
It was a good day for another Canadian -- David Hearn. Playing with Woods, he closed with a 71 and moved from No. 108 to No. 67. The other four from outside the top 100 who moved in were Jonas Blixt, Tommy Gainey and Jason Day, who closed with a 66.
The odd man out was John Mallinger, who started the week at No. 88 and missed the cut. He became the highest-seeded player to fail to advance since this FedExCup playoff system began in 2007.