April 6, 2014

Matt Jones wins Houston Open

Matt Jones wins the Houston Open over Matt Kuchar on the first playoff hole to get an invitation to next week’s Masters.

Augusta National Golf Club chairman Billy Payne will have to overnight one more invitation to this week’s Masters Tournament.

But Australian Matt Jones already knows it’s coming.

Jones rallied from a 5-shot deficit to force a playoff with American stalwart Matt Kuchar with a 15-under 273, then chipped in from 42 yards on the first playoff hole to secure the Shell Houston Open title at the Golf Club of Houston.

It’s Jones’ first win on Tour in seven full seasons and will be his first appearance at the year’s first major championship. The Masters begins Thursday.

“I told my caddie we’d chip in and we did it,” Jones said. “I was going home to play with my 2-year old and 3-week old and was going to skip Hilton Head, but now I get to go next week and change the schedule.”

It was an improbable finish considering how big of a lead Kuchar had after 54 holes.

Throw in the fact that Kuchar has won at least once prior to the Masters in each of the past two seasons, is 11th in the World Gold Ranking and has six top-10 finishes in nine starts this season and it makes Jones’ charge that much more impressive.

“This win is special and what comes with that is amazing also,” Jones said. “I haven’t won too many times, so to get a win out here is a pretty amazing thing.”

Jones hasn’t been very successful at the Houston Open either. He’s missed three cuts in five starts and his best finish prior to Sunday in Houston was a tie for 38th last year.

He got off to an inauspicious start in the fourth round with a bogey at the first that dropped him five shots back of 54-hole leader Kuchar.

And Kuchar hadn’t teed off yet.

Jones collected four birdies on the front side to announce his presence, then kept the pressure on with three more birdies through 16 holes.

A bogey at 17 looked like it might be his undoing, but the Arizona State alum dropped a 46-foot shot at the 72nd hole to pull within 1 shot of Kuchar.

Kuchar, the runner up at Colonial a year ago, made bogey on the final hole to give Jones extra life.

Spaniard Sergio Garcia, the 36-hole leader shot a final round, 2-under 70 to reach 13-under and a solo third-place finish.

Former President George H.W. Bush watched the final round.

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