On a muggy Sunday in Newtown Square, 54-hole co-leader Nick Watney carded a final round 66 to claim victory at the 2011 AT&T National at Aronimink Golf Club. The win is Watney's fourth as a professional and second this season.
Ending the day in solo-second, South Korean K.J. Choi put up a strong fight, but was ultimately undone by a ill-timed double bogey on the 500-yard par-4 15th.
The remaining man in the final group—Rickie Fowler—was not so fortuitous as to follow suit and secure third. Continuing an unfortunate trend of difficult final rounds—two within the last year at Muirfield Village and TPC Scottsdale—Fowler forfeited his share of the lead early on Sunday and was never able to right the ship after a day-long battle with his putter. A +4, 74 plummeted Fowler from the top of the leaderboard to a tie for thirteenth.
Back to the winner—Watney—the thirty-year-old Californian was presented a trophy shaped like the Liberty Bell and something
very much like $1,116,000, putting an end Philadelphia's latest experiment with professional golf.
Just as quickly as it arrived, the AT&T National has packed its bags to return to Bethesda, Maryland in 2012. The question now for local golf fans is simple: where do we go from here? We break down the future of professional golf in the Philadelphia area after the jump...
It's no great secret that the membership of the Aronimink Golf Club is looking to land a major championship following the success of the past two years. The club has previously hosted the 1962 PGA Championship, 1977 United States Amateur Championship, the 1997 United States Junior Amateur Championship and the 2003 Senior PGA Championship and is looking to take that next step in catching "the big one." Given the caliber of the tournaments already held on the grounds, it would seem as though the PGA and the USGA think highly enough of the course to give the AGC its fair consideration.
Unfortunately, such a scenario, even if plausible, isn't likely to result in an event any time soon.
With the Masters annually played at Augusta and the British Open obviously on the other side of the pond, only the U.S. Open and PGA Championship are in play. Those events, much like the World Cup and Olympics, are booked well in advance, with the Open already committed through 2019 and the PGA through 2018.
Further complicating matters is the Open's involvement at Merion in Ardmore in 2013. Though fans will certainly be excited to have the Open "in Philly," the tournament will more than likely have negative implications for Aronimink, insofar as the USGA likes to spread the event throughout the country.
That, of course, leaves the PGA as Aronimink's best chance at hosting a major any time soon. And on that front, "soon" won't come any quicker than August 2019.
Throwing aside the prospect of another major, and for the moment Aronimink itself, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem remarked earlier this week that the Tour was pleased with the success of the 2010 and 2011 AT&T and may move to explore a more permanent return to the Philadelphia market.
While there's no question that our area has the caliber courses to host a routine tour stop, that's done little to secure a long-standing event in the past. Timing, sponsorship and the necessary space for tournament infrastructure all play a role in the process.
For now, we can look forward to the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion. After that, well, your guess is as good as mine.