5 Things: Jones edges Kuchar in Houston
Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia sought momentum going to Augusta for this week's Masters, while Matt Jones and Cameron Tringale were hoping for a longshot ticket there – and fought their way into contention Sunday at the Shell Houston Open for just that.
Jones forced a playoff with what turned out to be a birdie-bogey swing at the 18th – then won by chipping in, over a bunker no less, on the first hole of sudden death to win a trophy and the most hallowed invitation in golf.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from the PGA Tour's last round before the Masters, Sunday's finale at the Golf Club of Houston.
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1. TICKET TO RIDE: A couple of times Sunday, third-round leader Matt Kuchar opened the door for Matt Jones to move his way into the lead, but the Australian earned his first PGA Tour win in 155 starts.
Jones' win also brought to 45 the number of players in the Shell Houston Open making the trek to Augusta.
He started the day with a bogey, but more than recovered with four birdies in six holes midway through the front nine – then added back-to-back birdies after the turn to push that total to six in nine holes. His birdie-bogey-birdie finish added the last stroke he needed for a 66 to pull within a shot of Kuchar's lead as he headed in.
When Kuchar – who, by the way, now has five top-10 finishes during his last nine starts – hit his approach on the 18th into the water and made bogey, the playoff was set. But Jones' chip-in gave him a birdie that Kuchar couldn't match from the sand.
And the Aussie earned his first trip down Magnolia Lane in a year when a fellow countryman, Adam Scott, will defend the green jacket.
Jones had come close to earning a spot in the Masters field at the BMW Championship last September, but missed a birdie putt from inside 10 feet that resulted in his failing to advance to the Tour Championship.
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2. WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR: Cameron Tringale started the day as the guy with the best shot to get an invitation to the Masters. Granted, he was four shots back of Kuchar and it didn't seem entirely likely.
A steady Sunday round indeed wasn't enough to punch his ticket, as Tringale finished fourth at 12 under after a 1-under 71. Bogeys at Nos. 6 and 11 dropped him out of serious contention, although three birdies in four holes from Nos. 13-16 gave him a solid finish.
In fact, it's the Georgia Tech product's first top-10 finish of the season and fifth top 25 as he's projected to rise to 40th in FedEx Cup points.
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3. RORY ROARS: Rory McIlroy had bemoaned his lack of scoring after three rounds of the Shell Houston. He talked about “nothing happening” and of needing a “spark” heading to next week’s Masters.
Mission accomplished Sunday. He got what he was looking for in the form of a 7-under 65 and a tie for seventh place. That left him talking about a different kind of vibes. Good ones.
“(This gives) me some positive vibes going into Augusta,” a smiling McIlroy said. “I can’t ask for a better way to fly to Augusta tonight.
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4. ODDSMAKERS' FAVORITES LAST ROUNDS: Rory McIlroy likely did nothing to hurt himself as the favorite for the Masters, having been listed at 8/1 before Sunday's standout round. Let's recap more of the players in this week's Shell Houston Open field who have been among oddsmakers' favorites to win next week's Masters:
- Phil Mickelson (15/1): T-12 at 7 under
- Dustin Johnson (15/1): WD after opening-round 80
- Henrik Stenson (20/1): T-54 at 1 over
- Matt Kuchar (20/1): Runner-up at 15 under, lost playoff
- Jordan Spieth (25/1): MC (70-75)
- Keegan Bradley (30/1): T-43, even par
- Sergio Garcia (30/1): Third, 13 under
(Also at 30/1 or better but not having played this week: Adam Scott, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner; click the link above for complete odds.)
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Former U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson shot 77 for the highest round in the field of someone headed into the Masters. . . . Shawn Stefani needed to finish in the top 35 Sunday to stay on the PGA Tour; taking advantage of his medical extension, the Lamar product did just that in finishing fifth at 10 under. . . . Jones rises 59 spots to 15th in FedEx Cup points.