Fowler, Watney Tied for Lead after Busy Saturday at AT&T

Fowler, Watney Tied for Lead after Busy Saturday at AT&T

Remember when K.J. Choi tied the Aronimink course record with a 64 on Friday? Well, forget about it. Nick Watney is your new record holder after an -8, 62 Saturday. Despite a largely ordinary even-par, 35 on the front, Watney would card six birdies and one eagle for a back nine total of just 27.

Watney was hardly alone, however, in his stellar play. Low scores were to be had during the third round, after the Aronimink grounds crew was reported to have sprayed a little extra water on the greens over night. Consequently, fans in Newtown Square enjoyed four rounds of 64, two of 63, and one—Watney's—62. Beside setting the new course low, Watney's Saturday finish matches the AT&T National single-round tournament record set by Anthony Kim at Congressional Country Club in 2009.

Not typically known for being so accessible, especially after putting up such a tough test in 2010, Aronimink played substantially easier than usual Saturday. Nonetheless, many of the players remained highly complimentary of the layout and its conditions:

"This is one of the better [courses] we play all year, and I think every other player will agree with that," said Chris Kirk. Kirk, who carded a -7, 63 on Saturday, sits just three shots behind Watney and Fowler at -6. "It's just a great golf course," Kirk continued, "It tests every part of your game."

Co-leader Nick Watney, whom you may remember for his performance at the 2010 PGA Championship, spoke in a similar tone when asked for his take on the multitude of low numbers.

"I don't know. I think the greens are a bit softer than they could have been. I heard they put some water on them. They gave us a drivable par-4. Other than that, the greens are so good that you can really start making putts. But I'm not sure why there were so many low scores today, whereas the first six rounds here, it was very difficult."

As for Watney's co-leader Ricky Fowler (pictured above), the young man in the brightly-colored Puma's is clearly the crowd favorite, especially amongst the ladies. It's hardly been uncommon this week to overhear any number of females—both young and not-so-slightly older—comment that they either "can't wait to go see Rickie Fowler" or are "trying to go see Rickie Fowler again."

Maybe it's that he's young—just 22. Maybe it's his outrageous monochromatic attire—a Carolina blue on Saturday. Maybe it's that he's already rich—having taken home $2.8 million last year. Maybe it's all of these things (It's probably all of these things). Let's just say that the kid has a bright future ahead of him, both on and off the course.

And, in fairness, Fowler's crowds are far from just women.

"[The crowd around me] definitely grew as the round went on," said Fowler. "I saw some kids with my hats on. It's definitely nice to have that, to have people to see me play and keep me going…It seems like these Philadelphia fans seem to like getting a little loud at times. So, hopefully we can give them something to cheer for tomorrow."

As if he couldn't get any better, he even knows how to appeal to our local sensibilities. Well done, Rickie.

One final update, 36-hole leader K.J. Choi had more than his fair share of struggles early in round three. After a promising birdie at the first, Choi would bogey three of next five, posting a disappointing +2, 37 on his opening nine. Still, K.J. would fight back to close with a -3, 34 on the back and finish with a -1, 69.

The forty-one-year old South Korean sits just one shot back of the lead at -8. Of the seven occasions in which Choi has held the 36-hole lead of a PGA Tour event, he has claimed victory five times. He'll try to make six of eight when he attempts to hunt down Fowler and Watney Sunday.

We'll be back tomorrow to wrap up the 2011 AT&T National from Aronimink. Following our weekend-long theme, we leave you with Bill Murray's stunning rendition of the 1980 Masters Championship. It's in the hole, it's in the hole.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).