HOUSTON: J.B. Holmes fashioned an electrifying final round, then held on to win the Houston Open in a three-way playoff on Sunday (Monday in Manila) for a perfect final preparation for next week’s Masters.
“Anytime you can get a win it’s a big step coming into a major,” said Holmes, who beat Johnson Wagner with a par at the second hole of sudden death after Jordan Spieth was eliminated at the first playoff hole.
“Hopefully I’ll be ready next week,” Holmes said.
Holmes started the day six shots adrift of overnight leader Spieth and surged up the leaderboard with seven birdies in his first nine holes—nine of his first 12. He had just one bogey in an eight-under 64, then waited for almost two hours before he was joined on 16-under 272 by Wagner and Spieth.
Spieth closed with a 70 while Wagner, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, made just the third birdie of the day at the Golf Club of Houston’s tough 18th hole to cap a 69 and join the playoff.
The trio returned to 18, where Holmes and Wagner were in the fairway but Spieth’s shot off the tee rolled down the bank toward the water hazard.
Holmes’s second shot left him a long birdie attempt and he two-putted for par, while Wagner got up and down for par from a bunker.
Spieth’s awkward second shot left him in a bunker and he was eliminated with a bogey.
From the 18th tee again, Holmes and Wagner both found the fairway. Holmes gave himself a 10-foot birdie putt, while Wagner left himself a difficult effort over the ridge.
Holmes’ birdie effort trickled right, but his par proved good enough when Wagner’s five-foot par putt failed to drop.
Wagner had been hoping to duplicate his fairytale win in this event in 2008—his first US PGA Tour title giving him a Masters berth.
He’s had his struggles since then, including losing his tour card. Losing out on the trophy and a spot in the year’s first major was a blow, but being in contention was a sign of progress.
“Birdying 18 to even get in the playoff was pretty incredible,” Wagner said. “I’m pretty bummed right now, I love this event. I’m really pretty disappointed, But there’s a lot of good stuff going on.”
Spieth, who finished runner-up to Bubba Watson in his Masters debut last year, still takes plenty of confidence into Augusta.
He won the Valspar championship and finished second in the Texas Open in his two prior starts.
“I feel as prepared as I think I could be,” said the 21-year-old Texan. “I’ve felt more and more comfortable with more and more pressure. That gives me a lot of confidence going into Augusta.”
Russell Henley finished alone in fourth after a 69 for 274.
Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge carded a 67 for 275, where he was joined by Cameron Tringale (68), Keegan Bradley (69) and Charles Howell (70).