AVONDALE — TPC Louisiana seems to bring out the best in Aaron Watkins.
The 30-year-old journeyman earned his biggest payday on the PGA Tour this season with a final round 65 to finish at 13-under-par 275 in a tie for eighth Sunday at the rain-soaked Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He pocketed $165,000, raising his yearly earnings to $184,911.11.
Watkins’ best previous finish on the Tour came in the 2009 Zurich, when he tied for seventh and won $203,175.
He had missed the cut in five of six events this season, his only payout of $19,911.11 coming at the Puerto Rico Open, where he tied for 30th.
“My scores didn’t show it, but I felt it was right around the corner,’’ he said. “It’s just a matter of getting some putts to drop. I felt like I’ve been hitting the ball well, just not scoring that well.’’
Watkins’ bogey-free round featured seven birdies, including a 20-footer on the 191-yard, par-3 ninth, his finishing hole.
“That was big,’’ he said. “I putted good all day today. It was nice to see ’em fall.”
Going, going, Guan
Though finishing last in the Zurich Classic, 14-year-old Chinese phenom Guan Tianlang said he “got a little better but not a big change. I got a long way to go.’’
He finished at 4-over 292 with rounds of 72-69-77-74. He said he planned to remain in New Orleans for several days before preparing to play in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier June 3 at Lakewood Country Club in Dallas.
“It was another great week to make the cut,’’ he said. “I had fun in New Orleans.’’
With rain wreaking havoc Sunday, the wet course played longer and the greens were more receptive and rolled slower. TPC Louisiana general manager Luke Farabaugh said the greens measured 11.6 on the Stimpmeter before the start of the round — fast but fair.
“It’s usually about 14 at the U.S. Open, but our goal is not to exceed 12 because of our winds around here,’’ he said.
President Bill Clinton was in town to address Zurich guests at The Roosevelt. ... Kelly Gibson and Andrew Shahan were presented the Zurich “Care Awards’’ for helping address challenges facing youth in the New Orleans area. ... Previous Zurich Classic champion Nick Watney (2007) was the only player to record all four rounds in the 60s: He posted rounds of 69-69-69-69 to finish in a tie for 15th at 12-under 276.
The last word
“What else can I say? ... 27 feet in the hole ... first victory. You can’t ask for anything else. It’s still pretty unbelievable.’’
Zurich Classic champion Billy Horschel on his birdie putt on the 72nd hole