Unheralded Herman trumps Stenson to win first PGA title in Houston

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Jim Herman of the United States celebrates his victory on the 18th green during the final round of the Shell Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston on Monday in Humble, Texas. AFP PHOTO

Jim Herman of the United States celebrates his victory on the 18th green during the final round of the Shell Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston on Monday in Humble, Texas. AFP PHOTO

LOS ANGELES: Journeyman Jim Herman held off top 10 players Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson to win his first US PGA Tour title at the Houston Open on Sunday (Monday in Manila) and book a Masters berth.

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Herman — a 38-year-old who was encouraged by Donald Trump to pursue his PGA Tour dream — had five birdies in a four-under 68 — including a spectacular chip-in from thick hillside rough at 16 that gave him a one-stroke lead he wouldn’t relinquish.

“Sorry for the tears, but I’m really happy,” said Herman, who was working at one of Trump’s golf courses when the tycoon-turned-Presidential contender urged him to keep pushing his professional career.

“He’s even helped me financially — he’s written me a check,” Herman said of Trump.

Herman parred the last for the win after an agonizing wait on the 18th tee.

His 15-under total of 273 gave him the narrow triumph over Stenson, the world number seven from Sweden who endured another in a long line of near-misses worldwide since he won the European Tour’s season-ending World Tour Championship in 2014.

In a back-and-forth battle, Stenson had briefly taken the lead with a birdie at 13 and was tied for the lead after a birdie at 15.

He had five birdies in a four-under 68 for 274, but narrowly missed an 18-foot birdie attempt at the last that would have at least put him in a playoff.

Herman’s victory was his first in 106 starts on the PGA Tour.

Now Herman is headed to the first major of the year at Augusta National.

“Never thought it was possible,” said Herman, whose only prior major appearances were three US Open starts.

“All the credit to Jimmy,” said Stenson. “He did really well.”

Johnson, ranked ninth in the world, had six birdies to counter a bogey and a double-bogey in a 69 for 275.

He was one shot in front of Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, whose sparkling seven-under 65 included five birdies and an eagle at the par-four 12th — where his 306-yard tee shot left him a five-foot putt.

Water dooms Spieth
For a few moments it looked like Jordan Spieth would mount a challenge as the world number two got off to a hot start in his bid to build momentum heading into his Masters title defence at Augusta National next week.

With renewed rhythm on the greens the 22-year-old Texan birdied five of his first seven holes to charge up the leaderboard, a run that included a 45-footer at the fifth.

But he bogeyed three of his next four, failing to get up and down from the greenside rough at the tough par-three-ninth before poor shots at 11 and 12 — a second shot to the bank of the water hazard at 11 and a driver into the water at 12 — cost him two more strokes and after two more birdies he closed with a double-bogey at 18, where he was in the water again.

“I had eight water balls this week — give me eight more shots and we win the golf tournament,” Spieth said. “Don’t hit it in the water, we win.”

Spieth signed for a two-under 70 that left him tied for 13th on 280 in a group that also included five-time major winner Phil Mickelson.

“The good news is, I got myself in contention, I felt the nerves,” Spieth said. “I know what I need to work on under pressure now for next week and everything is there.”

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