Golf: Matt Jones earns US Masters ticket with 2 stunning shots to win Houston Open

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Australian golfer Matt Jones executed two near-miracles in quick succession to win the Houston Open on Sunday, dramatically earning a last-minute ticket to next week's US Masters when he sank a 40-yard birdie to beat American Matt Kuchar at the first extra hole.

"I told my caddie I would chip it in, so it was nice to do it," Jones told NBC TV after an Australian won in Houston for a ninth time. "It's been a while coming. I've been out here for seven years now so it's good to finally get one. I've had a few chances."

Minutes earlier, Jones birdied the same par-four 18th by sinking a 45-foot putt that at the time seemed like it would be too little, too late. But Kuchar, playing behind, pulled his approach shot from 216 yards into the water hazard at the same hole and, after taking a penalty stroke, did well to salvage a bogey to force a play-off.

Jones earns US$1.152 million (S$1.452 million) for his first PGA Tour victory and becomes the fourth player from his country to win in the past seven weeks, joining Jason Day (WGC Matchplay), John Senden (Tampa Bay Championship) and Steven Bowditch (Texas Open).

The 33-year-old from Sydney has never played in the Masters, and he needed nothing less than a victory in Houston to secure the final spot in the first Major of the year next week.

Jones and Kuchar finished at 15-under-par 273, two strokes ahead of Spain's Sergio Garcia.

Rory McIlroy closed with a 65 to match the low round of the tournament. He finished equal seventh on eight-under, while Phil Mickelson also had a solid week, a further stroke back heading to a tournament he has won three times.

Kuchar also will travel to the Masters in good form, though mindful he has failed to close the deal the past two weeks.

The six-time PGA Tour winner led halfway through the final round of the Texas Open last week but finished joint-fourth, and took a four-shot advantage into the final round in Houston.

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