Watney Wins by Two; What Now for Professional Golf in Philadelphia?

Watney Wins by Two; What Now for Professional Golf in Philadelphia?

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.

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored three goals for his third career hat trick to lead the surging Chicago Blackhawks past the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win and eighth in nine games.

Kane has 23 goals to lead Chicago, which closed within three points behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Rookies Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and assist. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival scored his first goal of the season in his first game since Jan. 15.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews added two assists to extend his points scoring streak to five games and increase his output to 22 points in his past 13.

Jakob Chychrun, Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored for the Coyotes. Chychrun and Vrbata each scored for the second straight game (see full recap).

Rangers outlast Maple Leafs in shootout
TORONTO -- Mika Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers continued a strong February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.

New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.

Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.

The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal (see full recap).

Islanders shut out Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period, Thomas Greiss made 24 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Thursday night.

Anders Lee scored in the second period and John Tavares added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the Islanders' third straight win. New York has won the first two games on a crucial nine-game road swing and improved to 12-4-2 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano.

Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had two assists, and Greiss got his third shutout of the season.

Carey Price finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens lost coach Claude Julien's 1,000th NHL game. Montreal is 1-2-0 since Julien replaced Michel Therrien last week and has totaled just 14 goals while going 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, including four shutouts (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.

The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.

Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.

Eric Gordon scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson added 17 in both players' first game in New Orleans since leaving the Pelicans. James Harden had 13 points and 14 assists (see full recap).

LeBron triple-double powers Cavs past Knicks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 48th career triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-104 victory over the New York Knicks, who hung on to superstar Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at Thursday's trade deadline.

James scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds with 15 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

Anthony, the subject of trade rumors because of a strained relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, scored 20 points, going 9 of 25 from the field.

Kyle Korver scored 20 points for Cleveland, which is 8-1 in February and has beaten New York 10 straight times.

Courtney Lee had 25 points for New York, which has lost six of seven and is 12th in the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Pistons rally from 18 down to beat Hornets in OT
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 33 points, including three 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter during a pulsating Detroit rally, and the Pistons outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 in overtime Thursday night.

Caldwell-Pope scored Detroit's last 11 points of regulation, and his 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds to play tied the game at 100. Kemba Walker scored Charlotte's final nine points of the fourth, but the Pistons forced him to give up the ball on the last possession, and Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer that could have won it.

Detroit, which was behind by 18 in the third quarter, never trailed in the overtime. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining put the Pistons up 110-102.

Charlotte led 85-70 at the start of the fourth but missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the period, enabling Detroit to cut into the lead.

Walker scored 34 points. Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons (see full recap).