FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Even after a year that didn't come close to his expectations, Nick Watney wasn't about to give up on his season.
Amazing how one week changed his outlook in so many ways.
He beat one of the strongest fields of the year at The Barclays, on the tough track of Bethpage Black. Winning the opening playoff event for the FedExCup guarantees him a good shot at the $10 million prize. And suddenly, playing in the Ryder Cup becomes a lot more realistic.
That all came into play Sunday when Watney didn't miss a green until the 16th hole, turned a two-shot deficit against Sergio Garcia into a three-shot lead, overcame a trio of three-putt bogeys with clutch birdies, and closed with a 2-under 69 for a three-shot victory that also boosted him back into the top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Watney rose to 19th from his previous spot at No. 35 on the strength of his first victory of 2012. Also Sunday, Paul Lawrie climbed from 34th up to 30th by winning the Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland.
The top five in the world ranking held firm this week, with Rory McIlroy still on top, followed by No. 2 Luke Donald. Tiger Woods remained third, despite tying for 38th at The Barclays after his final-round 76. Lee Westwood is fourth, with U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson still in fifth place after missing the cut at the Barclays.
Bubba Watson rose from seventh up to sixth with his tie for 10th at Bethpage Black, and Jason Dufner climbed from ninth up to seventh place, while Justin Rose held on to eighth place. Adam Scott dropped from sixth down to ninth place by finishing 57th at The Barclays, while Steve Stricker remained 10th after his tie for 54th.
The second 10 includes No. 11 Matt Kuchar, No. 12 Keegan Bradley, No. 13 Graeme McDowell, No. 14 Sergio Garcia (up from 17th), No. 15 Zach Johnson (down from 14th), No. 16 Dustin Johnson (up from 19th), No. 17 Louis Oosthuizen (down from 16th), No. 18 Hunter Mahan (down from 15th), No. 19 Watney and No. 20 Brandt Snedeker (up from 29th after finishing second at The Barclays).
''It's been not quite the year I wanted,'' Watney said. ''But this really makes it all forgotten. Winning a tournament is hard, but winning out here and against this field was very, very difficult. I'm kind of still on a high right now.''
U.S. Captain Davis Love III has a lot more choices for his four wild-card selections next week.
Watney won by three shots over Brandt Snedeker, who already was part of the discussion as a potential pick. Snedeker, a winner in San Diego and a contender in the British Open, battled to the end and made big putts on the last two holes for a 1-under 70 to finish alone in second.
Not even Watney thought he was worthy of being picked for the Ryder Cup going into the week.
''I'm thinking much more now than I was coming in,'' he said. ''Coming in here, I didn't deserve to be in the conversation because I had not played my way in. Someone told me that Davis said he wanted a hot player, and we still have a week to go. But like I said, I'd love to be on the team. But I'm not really concerned with it just because it's out of my control.''
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.
''I hit a couple bad shots at the wrong moments,'' Garcia said. ''And unfortunately, I just wasn't feeling comfortable.''
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.