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Stocks to watch at noon on Monday

Stocks to watch on the Australian stock exchange at noon on Monday:

AAD – ARDENT LEISURE – up 3.

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5 cents, or 1.69 per cent, at $2.105

Theme park and health club operator Ardent Leisure Group’s half year profit has risen five per cent as its American family entertainment business grows.

ALZ – AUSTRALAND – up 3.00 cents, or 0.77 per cent, at $3.94

Australand Property Group has suffered a 25 per cent slide in full year profit to $135 million.

ANN – ANSELL – down 96 cents, or 4.98 per cent, at $18.33

Condom and protective clothing maker Ansell has lifted its first half profit almost 15 per cent, thanks to stronger sales of its medical, industrial and specialty products.

AZJ – AURIZON HOLDINGS – up 10.5 cents, or 2.06 per cent, at $5.205

Freight rail operator Aurizon has suffered a 39 per cent slide in first half profit due to asset writedowns and redundancy costs.

BEN – BENDIGO BANK – up 15 cents, or 1.28 per cent, at $11.87

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank has lifted its first half cash profit almost 10 per cent after lower funding costs helped improve its margins.

BSL – BLUESCOPE STEEL – down 3.00 cents, or 0.51 per cent, at $5.90

A union representing workers at a south Auckland steel mill sold to Australian steelmaker BlueScope Steel says more than 70 jobs will be lost when it closes in 2015.

FXJ – FAIRFAX MEDIA – up 0.25 cents, or 0.35 per cent, at 72.25 cents

Fairfax Media’s weekend newspapers will move to the compact format already used for weekday editions within weeks.

UGL – UGL – down 43 cents, or 6.07 per cent, at $6.65

Engineering and property services group UGL has increased its half year profit by 13.5 per cent with its diverse revenue base helping it weather challenging conditions in the local mining sector.

Bubba Bolts to Riviera glory

Bubba Watson has produced a spectacular weekend of golf to snatch victory in the US PGA Tour event at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.

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Sitting in a tie for 40th and eight shots off the pace at the halfway mark on Friday, 2012 Masters champion Watson closed with two blistering, bogey-free seven-under-par 64s on Saturday and Sunday to finish at 15-under and win by two strokes.

“I went into the weekend just trying to just play solid golf, just build on it, build on the future,” Watson said.

“To win around here, what an honour, what a privilege, what a blessing with the history behind this golf tournament and some of the great names as champions.”

Watson collected his fifth US tour title as he won from Dustin Johnson, who carded a closing 66.

Monday qualifier Jason Allred (68), who won more money ($US388,600) in one go then he has in his 12 years since his tour debut in 2003, and Brian Harman (68) shared third at 12-under while another Masters winner, South African Charl Schwartzel (68) was fifth at 11-under.

John Senden (70) and Aaron Baddeley (71) shared top Australian honours at seven-under in a tie for 18th.

Both Australians were left to rue a lack of momentum at critical times but took positives out of the week.

“I made a good birdie on one today but then failed to take some chances over the next several holes and that was the key,” Baddeley, who had a share of the lead early in round three, said.

“If I make a few of those I’m three-under on the round, I’m away, I’m seeing putts go in, I have momentum and it’s a different ball-game.

“But I just couldn’t get any momentum all weekend and it wasn’t to be.

“But it was great to be back in the mix, to feel the final group feelings and to once again know I’m not far away.

“Now I’m excited for the break from tournament golf to get back into the grind and fix a few little things in practice and really take things to the next level going forward.”

Senden carded three birdies in his first 11 holes to get within striking distance but the Queenslander three-putted the 12th hole for bogey before making a mess of the 13th with a double bogey.

“Holes 12 and 13 stopped my scoring run which was a shame but it didn’t really affect how I was feeling with my swing so that was pleasing,” Senden said.

“Momentum is something you need so I certainly lost it there but I was able to hang tough from that point, get a sneaky birdie late and play the last well to give me good feelings heading to Florida.

“It was my best ever result here and we got some good work done so it should set me up for the rest of the year.”

Robert Allenby (69) and Geoff Ogilvy (69) finished at four-under in a tie for 29th and Stuart Appleby (73) was the only other Australian under par for the week in a tie for 45th at one-under.

Marc Leishman (71) and Matt Jones (75) finished tied for 59th at one-over.

Jobs to go after Pacific Steel sold abroad

A union representing workers at a south Auckland steel mill sold to Australian steelmaker BlueScope Steel says more than 70 jobs will be lost when it closes in 2015.

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Fletcher Building has announced it has sold Pacific Steel to BlueScope Steel, Australia’s largest steelmaker, in a $NZ120 million ($A112.16 million) deal.

The deal will mean Fletcher’s steel mill at Otahuhu will shut its doors by the end of 2015.

The Australian company will build a billet caster at its Glenbrook mill south of Auckland operated by its NZ Steel unit, spending about $NZ50 million on the new plant, it said.

Until then, Fletcher will continue to operate the Otahuhu mill and supply BlueScope with billet on commercial terms, Fletcher said.

“These are tiny plants on a world scale and this is how you allow manufacturing to survive here,” Philip King, Fletcher’s investor relations manager, told BusinessDesk on Monday.

“The competition comes from imports.”

The rolling mill and wire mill at Otahuhu will remain open with the steel mill closing.

Fletcher chief executive Mark Adamson said most of the Pacific Steel rolling mill and wire drawing workers would be offered work by BlueScope.

But the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says that more than 70 jobs will be lost.

“These are high-value, skilled jobs, and it’s a blow to our members and their community to lose them,” said Bill Newson, EPMU national secretary, on Monday.

He said there may be retraining opportunities for workers and the union would work with Fletcher to explore options.

The job losses were an indictment of the government’s failure to support jobs and manufacturing in New Zealand, he said.

Under the deal, Melbourne-based BlueScope will pay $NZ60 million for Pacific Steel’s long-products rolling and marketing operations and pay about $NZ60 million for its working capital.

BlueScope will pay half the $NZ60 million price of the assets upfront and the remainder once it has commissioned its new billet caster.

The deal doesn’t affect ownership of Fletcher’s steel distribution business, Fletcher Easysteel, or its reinforcing business, Fletcher Reinforcing.

Augusta National loses Eisenhower Tree

Augusta National will have a different look for Adam Scott’s Masters title defence after the famous Eisenhower Tree was removed.

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Situated on the left side of the 17th fairway, the large pine is a huge part of Masters folklore, but it’s been pulled down after it suffered irreparable damage in a recent ice storm.

“The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept. We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible,” said Billy Payne, the Augusta National chairman.

Without the pine, the 17th takes on a completely different look and becomes a much easier proposition from the tee, so it is likely to be replaced.

The tree was named after former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a golfing nut and club member from 1948 until his death in 1969.

He reputedly hit into the tree so often that he campaigned for it to be removed, only to have Augusta National’s founding chairman Clifford Roberts rule the motion out of order and promptly adjourn the club’s 1956 governors’ meeting.

The pine has been known as Eisenhower’s Tree ever since.

“We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and to pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history – rest assured, we will do both appropriately,” Payne said.

“I can report that the golf course sustained no major damage otherwise. We are now open for member play and we will be unaffected in our preparations for the 2014 Masters tournament.”

Australia’s world No.11 Australian Jason Day, who has runner-up and third place finishes on his Masters resume, was disappointed to hear of the famous tree’s demise.

“That’s a shame and it would look really different without it,” Day said.

“No doubt they will replace it in a timely and impressive manner and it will probably look like it has been there for 100 years. They always do it right at Augusta.”

The tree has played a role in the outcome of many Masters through the years including for Jose Maria Olazabal after he famously punched a five-iron onto the green from under it to preserve his victory over Greg Norman in 1999.

Most recently it impacted Tiger Woods in 2012 when the tree snagged his drive and he injured his Achilles tendon hitting his recovery shot from an awkward stance in the pine straw underneath low-hanging branches.

Watson storms home to seal two-shot win at Riviera

Four strokes off the pace going into the final round, the American left-hander seized control with five birdies in the first eight holes on the way to a flawless seven-under-par 64 at a sun-splashed Riviera Country Club.

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Watson, who has long relished playing at the revered venue despite never having posted a top-10 finish in seven previous starts, capped his round in style, rolling in a 14-foot birdie putt at the last to post a 15-under total of 269.

“I am hitting the ball really well … and it worked out this week,” an elated Watson told CBS Sports after clinching his fifth PGA Tour title and the winner’s cheque for $1.206 million.

“Things are great right now,” said the American, who went bogey-free at Riviera over the weekend as he fired successive 64s.

Watson’s final round was the lowest by a champion at Riviera since Doug Tewell’s 63 in 1986 sealed a seven-shot victory.

He came into the tournament having recorded two top-10s in his first four starts on the 2013-14 PGA Tour, his best finish a tie for second at the Phoenix Open earlier this month.

“Today, I got hot early, holed a bunker shot on six to really get it going and went bogey-free in the last round,” said Watson.

“I was looking at: ‘There’s a number out there and I’m going to shoot it. I have to shoot it and I have to go out there and play good golf’.

“You’re always looking at trying to beat the golf course first, so that was my goal,” said the American, who was embraced after the round by his wife Angie and their son Caleb, who will celebrate his second birthday in two weeks’ time.

Long-hitting American Dustin Johnson, one of four players who held at least a share of the lead during Sunday’s final round at Riviera, closed with a five-birdie 66 to finish alone in second.

Monday qualifier Jason Allred and fellow American Brian Harman signed off with 68s to share third place at 12-under, a stroke better than 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, who also carded a 68.

MAINTAINED ADVANTAGE

American journeyman William McGirt, bidding for his first PGA Tour victory, began the last day with a two-shot lead but slid back with a 73 to finish five strokes behind Watson.

McGirt had maintained his overnight advantage with a comfortable two-putt birdie at the par-five first, the easiest hole on the course.

However, he stumbled with a bogey at the tricky par-four second, where his approach ended up just short of the green before he ran his first putt nine feet past the hole.

On a course running fast and firm under a dazzling sun, several of McGirt’s closest pursuers began to pile on the heat and, for a while, four players were tied at the top at 12-under: McGirt, Watson, Harman and Schwartzel.

Watson, who had holed out from a greenside bunker to birdie the sixth, broke the deadlock by draining a 16-footer to birdie the par-four eighth before reaching the turn in a blistering five-under 30.

The American left-hander, who made the cut by just two shots after scores of 70 and 71 before charging up the leaderboard with a sizzling 64 in the third round, then forged two strokes clear with a birdie at the par-five 11th.

Watson did well to par the treacherous 12th, where he sank an eight-foot putt, before Johnson trimmed his lead to just one with a birdie at the 15th.

Watson refused to buckle and held on to secure victory with pars on the next five holes before collecting his seventh birdie of the day at the par-four 18th.

“He must be hitting the ball great and be in great control of his golf ball because the golf course, the greens, are really firm,” Schwartzel said of Watson’s performance. “It’s difficult. You need to hit good shots here.”

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Ian Ransom)