Qualifying for the Masters closed last week. The only way someone not already qualified could get in via the Shell Houston Open, the last event prior to the season’s first major, was to win it all. In miraculous fashion, that happened. Meanwhile, some big names turned in some promising performances and a teen phenom collected her first major.
Here’s a look back at the weekend:
Matt Jones chips in from 42 yards to win playoff
Six shots back of Matt Kuchar entering Sunday’s final round at the Shell Houston Open, Matt Jones needed an incredible run if he wanted his first trip to the Masters. The Aussie then went out and carded eight birdies, none more incredible than the 46-foot putt he holed on his 72nd hole to move to 15-under-par. That earned him a spot in a playoff with Kuchar after the latter bogeyed 18. Jones’ tee shot on the playoff hole (No. 18) found a bunker, from which he came up short of the green. No matter.
“I walked up there and told my caddy I was going to chip it in,” Jones said, and then actually did just that. Jones thus became the second straight Aussie to collect his first career PGA Tour win (after Steven Bowditch last week), and the second straight player to earn a Masters berth who wouldn’t have gotten in without a victory to his credit. Jones will take $1.15 million with him to Augusta.
Matt Kuchar collapses again
As impressive as Jones’ heroics were, they would’ve been all for naught had Kuchar not collapsed down the stretch for the second consecutive week. He took a four-shot lead into Sunday, and held it all day – until bogeys at 16 and 18. His edge was one stroke as he took his second shot from the No. 18 fairway, but he pulled it left into water before getting up and down. Last week at the Valero Texas Open, Kuchar started the final round in second at three shots off the lead, and he was tied with Bowditch after nine holes. But Kuchar quickly fell off the pace with bogeys at 10, 11 and 14, and zero back-nine birdies. He finished two strokes behind Bowditch in a tie for fourth.
Season-best showings for marquee names
Though a first-timer took the Houston Open, some big names turned in solid performances in their final Masters tune-up. Tying for 12th at 7-under and eight shots back was Phil Mickelson, a promising showing considering he pulled out early due to injury last week in San Antonio. A 14th-place finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November was his previous best of the 2013-14 season. Finishing two shots off the Houston lead and placing solo third was Sergio Garcia, his season’s best result. It marks his fourth top-10 in six tourneys, and his previous best was fourth at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Rickie Fowler also recorded a season-best in stroke play by placing sixth, six shots back. He took third at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, but his Houston showing is his first top-10 result in 10 stroke-play events. Rory McIlroy was also solid, his T-7 giving him a third top-10 in five events.
Lexi Thompson grabs first major at age 19
Tied at 10-under with Michelle Wie coming into Sunday at the LPGA’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Lexi Thompson carded four birdies on the front nine and held a five-shot edge at the turn. Thompson went conservative from there and played even-par over the back nine, coasting to bogey-free, 14-under final score, three shots better than Wie. The first major of the 19-year-old’s career goes down as her fourth win on the LPGA Tour. Only Morgan Pressel at the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship was younger than Thompson in winning a major; Pressel was 18 years, 10 months and nine days old, while Thompson is 19 years, 1 month and 27 days.
Marco Crespi collects first Euro title
Over on the European Tour, Italy’s Marco Crespi turned in a 3-under 69 Sunday at the NH Collection Open to claim his first European Tour title. The 35-year-old collected 100,000 Euros ($138,000) in his 25th European Tour event, in which a fourth place at the South African Open was his best previous result.
Photo Gallery: Lexi Thompson
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