Golf: World No. 242 Spaun bags maiden win at Texas Open to earn Masters ticket

J.J. Spaun poses with the champion's trophy after winning Valero Texas Open golf tournament. PHOTO: REUTERS/ERIK WILLIAMS-USA TODAY SPORTS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - J.J. Spaun punched his ticket to the Masters after firing a three-under 69 to claim the first victory of his career at the Texas Open on Sunday (April 3).

The journeyman world No. 242 from Los Angeles recovered from a disastrous double-bogey opening hole to card five birdies and 12 pars to finish on 13-under 275 for the tournament at San Antonio.

Australia's Matt Jones, who finished with a six-under 66, and Matt Kuchar (69) finished two off the lead tied for second on 11-under 277.

Canada's Adam Hadwin, Troy Merritt, Charles Howell III and overnight co-leader Beau Hossler were a further shot back on 10 under.

The first PGA Tour victory of Spaun's career means he will now claim the last available spot at next week's Masters in Augusta - the first time he has played in the iconic tournament.

Spaun's entry at Augusta will be only the third time ever he has played in a Major, following a 35th-place finish at the 2018 PGA Championship and a missed cut at last year's US Open.

"To be here and finally get a win - it's everything you dream of," said Spaun, whose win came in his 147th start. "It's incredible. I'm speechless."

His 69 was good enough to see him edge clear of a crowded leaderboard.

Spaun had been part of a four-way tie for the lead after Saturday's third round alongside Hossler, Brandt Snedeker, and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli.

However Spaun's co-leaders were all unable to mount a challenge.

His short game around the green provided the momentum for his final-round rally after his opening double-bogey.

He bagged a birdie on the eighth after chipping to within inches of the cup, and then followed that up with a chipped birdie on the ninth which carried 50 feet and into the hole.

A superb tee shot on the par-three 11th left him with a four-footer for birdie and then another birdie on the 14th - playing out of a bunker before draining a nine-footer to go to three under.

From there, he played it safe down the stretch, nervelessly making a string of tricky par putts to close out the round without dropping a shot.

Spaun is the first player to win a PGA Tour event after double-bogeying the first hole of a final round since Tiger Woods won the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.

"Honestly it didn't bother me as much you would think," Spaun said of his opening double-bogey.

"If anything, it calmed me down. I knew there was still a lot of golf and that I'd rather double-bogey the first hole than the last hole."

Spaun is now looking forward to a Masters debut in Augusta this week.

"It's something you dream of as a kid, playing the Masters," he said.

"I was thinking about it last night, but there was so much I still needed to do win. Fortunately I was able to stay in the present and get the win."

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