HOUSTON • Jim Herman, who last week was ranked 191st in the golf world, has provided a Masters fairy tale by clinching the Houston Open title and therefore the final spot in the 90-man field at Augusta National.
His one-stroke triumph on Sunday triggered tears and no wonder: This was the 38-year-old American's maiden victory on the PGA Tour.
Herman, whose event preparation included a social round with United States Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, carded a closing four-under 68 at the Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas, to finish at 273. Swede Henrik Stenson (68) was second.
And Herman wasted no time giving partial credit to Trump for even being on the tour, after spending years in the golfing wilderness.
"He helped me financially, wrote me a cheque. He gave me a lot of confidence," said Herman, who was a teaching pro at Trump National in New Jersey a decade ago.
On Sunday, Herman also had to clinch success the hard way.
In Stenson and Dustin Johnson, he had golfing luminaries breathing down his neck throughout the afternoon.
Johnson (69) fell by the wayside, finishing third at 275, before Stenson had a final-green 18-foot putt to tie with Herman.
The Swede's effort slid agonisingly past - much to his obvious disbelief - with Herman making par on the same, treacherous hole to ensure the happiest day of his professional life and a debut in the first Major of the year.
"I never thought it was possible," said Herman, who had not come close to winning in 105 career starts on the PGA Tour.
He described how far he had come after being forced back to the tour qualifying school seven times after being unable to keep his card.
"This would never have been possible two years ago," he said. "There were some shots I couldn't have hit under the pressure."
His three previous Major appearances all came at the US Open, the last of them in 2013.
The life-changing aspect of events in Houston is highlighted by a cheque for US$1.2 million (S$1.62 million), plus a series of exemptions for top events.
World No. 1 Jordan Spieth (70), who will open his defence of his Masters title on Thursday, double-bogeyed the final hole and finished seven strokes off the pace.
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS