Updated: Sunday, 06 Apr 2014 23:57 | Comments
Matt Jones chipped in from 42 yards in a play-off to earn a ticket to the Masters as Matt Kuchar let victory slip through his fingers at the Shell Houston Open.
Jones’ remarkable shot on the first play-off hole came after Kuchar bogeyed two of the final three holes on his final round to throw away the lead he had held overnight.
In contrast Jones carded a final-round 66, highlighted by a 46-yard putt on the final hole, to claim his first PGA Tour title, more than one million dollars in prize money, and a ticket to Augusta.
But while Jones made all the right moves on Sunday, Kuchar could have nobody to blame but himself for letting the title get away from him.
The overnight leader had made steady if unspectacular progress throughout his final round – recovering from early bogeys with three birdies on the back nine – and appeared like he might be able to do enough to hold off the Australian’s challenge.
But the pressure exerted by Jones’ clubhouse lead told and it all fell apart for Kuchar late in the day as he bogeyed the 16th and 18th holes to end up in a play-off.
It is a second straight tournament in which Kuchar has lost a lead late on.
He was tied with Steven Bowidtch on the back nine in last week’s Valero Texas Open but the Australian came through to win.
While Kuchar leaves nursing his wounds, Rory McIlroy gave himself something to build on heading into the Masters with a final-round 65 to finish in a tie for seventh.
Although he started and finished the day well out of contention after a 74 on Saturday, McIlroy could afford a smile after a bogey-free round which matched the low score of the week so far.
“It was a good way to end the week, obviously,” McIlroy said on the PGA Tour website.
“I wanted to shoot something in the 60s at least today to give me some positive vibes going into Augusta. I played really well, played really solid from tee-to-green again.
“I holed the putts that I felt I should hole and just kept the ball in play all day. Every time I hit it pretty close, within 10 feet, I holed the putt. It was great to see a few putts like that drop. It’s a nice bit of confidence going into next week.
“I’m happy with how this week went, even though I didn’t quite do what I wanted to do in terms of getting in contention.
“But I sort of made up for it today. I couldn’t be in a better mood getting on the plane and heading over (to Augusta) tonight.”
Phil Mickelson also came through unscathed, declaring himself fit after a recent pulled muscle.
However, the three-time Masters winner, who finished in a tie for 12th, admitted his confidence is not where it might be given recent results.
“I’m a little nervous heading into next week,” he said. “I haven’t had the results, I haven’t been in contention, I haven’t won this year, so I’m certainly nervous about my chances, but it’s my favourite week of the year.”