Henley has his eyes on Augusta as 'chills' start

American golfer Russell Henley claimed the final spot at the Masters on the basis of his three-stroke victory at the Houston Open.
American golfer Russell Henley claimed the final spot at the Masters on the basis of his three-stroke victory at the Houston Open.

HOUSTON • American golfer Russell Henley said he had "chills" thinking about his return to the Masters, a reward for his three-stroke victory at the Houston Open in Texas on Sunday.

The amateur guitar player made a career-best 10 birdies to surge past a faltering Kang Sung Hoon and clinch his third PGA Tour victory.

"I just told myself to bear down, no matter whether I was winning or losing. When you embrace the challenge, it calms you down a little bit," Henley, who started the day four strokes behind Kang, said after carding 65 to finish at 20-under 268 at the Golf Club of Houston.

Kang, like Henley, needed a win to qualify for the Masters starting on Thursday, but battled to a 72 in his final round.

The South Korean preserved solo second place by sinking a 15-foot par putt at the last to finish at 271, a stroke better than Rickie Fowler (70) and Luke List (68).

"Russell just played it great," Kang said. "He putted really well, made almost everything. He's been putting really well since the last few days, and then I haven't been putting really well, not like the first two rounds. That was the big key, I think, the putting."

A spot in the Masters was reserved for the Houston winner, if not already exempt, and Henley heads to Augusta, Georgia for the year's first Major championship.

"It gives me chills," said Henley, 27, who started the week ranked 117th in the world. "I've been trying not to think about it today but obviously it went through my head."

He hopes to defy history in his fourth appearance at Augusta. Only four players have won the Houston PGA Tour event and claimed the Green Jacket the next week, most recently Phil Mickelson in 2006.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2017, with the headline 'Henley has his eyes on Augusta as 'chills' start'. Print Edition | Subscribe