Joy for Henley, heartbreak for Kang
Georgia native Russell Henley said he had "chills" thinking about his return to the US Masters, a reward for his impressive three-stroke victory at the Shell Houston Open in Texas yesterday morning (Singapore time).
The amateur guitar player made a career-best 10 birdies in a seven-under 65 at the Golf Club of Houston to surge past a faltering Kang Sung Hoon of South Korea and clinch his third US PGA Tour victory.
Henley had trailed Kang by four strokes going into the final round.
"I just told myself to bear down, no matter whether I was winning or losing," said Henley, whose 20-under total of 268 tied the 72-hole scoring record established by Phil Mickelson in 2011.
"When you embrace the challenge, it calms you down a little bit."
HOPES TO DEFY HISTORY
Kang, needing a win like Henley to qualify for the Masters starting on Friday morning, never got his final round off the launch pad, battling to a 72.
The South Korean secured solo second place by sinking a 15-foot par putt at the last to finish at 17 under, a stroke better than Americans Rickie Fowler and Luke List.
A spot in the Masters was reserved for the Houston winner, if not already exempt, and Henley heads to Augusta, Georgia for the year's first Major championship, not far from his hometown of Macon.
"It gives me chills," Henley, 27, said.
"I've been trying not to think about it today but, obviously, it went through my head."
He hopes to defy history in his fourth appearance at Augusta. Only four players have won the Houston PGA Tour event and then gone on to also claim the Green Jacket the next week, most recently Mickelson in 2006.
Mickelson, one of 18 Augusta-bound players who made the cut in Houston, tied for 55th in his final tune-up for what he hopes will be a fourth Green Jacket. - REUTERS