Russell Henley no longer gets to take a week off, and he couldn’t be happier.
He’s going to the Masters.
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 2, 2017
Henley overcame a four-shot deficit Sunday in the Houston by closing with a 7-under 65 for a three-shot victory, one of the most important final rounds of his career. Only later did he realize it might have his best.
He made 10 birdies. He never went more than two holes without a birdie.
“I made 10 birdies today?” he asked. “Oh, wow. Wow. Yeah, then I guess it’s definitely the best.”
Henley ran off five of them in the opening eight holes to briefly catch up to Sung Kang, only to make a double bogey from the bunker on the par-3 ninth at the Golf Club of Houston. Only the 27-year-old from Georgia was just getting warmed up.
The decisive stretch came on the par-5 13th, where Henley and Kang were tied for the lead. Henley pitched to 3 feet for birdie, while Kang missed from 15 feet. On the par-3 14th, Henley rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt on the fast greens, cut to try to mimic what players will face at Augusta National. Kang did well to save par from 6 feet. And then Henley raced out to a three-shot advantage with another up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 15th.
He finished with a bogey for 20-under 268, three shots ahead of Kang.
Henley won for the third time in his PGA Tour career, and his first since a playoff victory over Rory McIlroy in the 2014 Honda Classic. He was in danger of missing the Masters for the second straight year until winning the Houston Open, the only way into Augusta National at this point.
“I wasn’t expecting to go back to Augusta,” he said. “I was planning on not going, but I was going to try my best to win. So, the fact I get to go back is pretty cool and I’m excited. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Henley became the third player in the last four years to win the Houston Open and earn a trip to the Masters.