Jones’ chip-in beats Kuchar

Matt Jones of Australia chipped in from 42 yards for birdie on the first playoff hole to beat Matt Kuchar and claim his first PGA Tour victory plus a berth in the Masters by winning the Shell Houston Open on the Tournament Course at the Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas.

Jones closed with a 7-under-par 65, but it appeared he would finish second, even after he holed a 46-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation. However, Kuchar hit his second shot on the closing hole into the water and had to hole a four-foot bogey putt to simply get into the playoff.

“I actually told my caddie that I was going to chip it in (on the playoff hole),”said the 33-year-old Jones, who played at Arizona State before turning pro and playing on what is now the Tour, where he finished second four times without winning. “I’ve been working pretty hard on my chipping and putting.

“It’s amazing. It’s been a long time coming because I’ve been out here seven years and it’s good to finally get one. I have a lot of tickets to buy (for the Masters this week) for family and friends in Australia and Scottsdale (Ariz.).”

Kuchar, seeking his seventh PGA Tour victory, took a four-stroke lead into the final round and struggled early with two bogeys in the first six holes before turning things around and staying in front with three birdies in six holes through No. 15.

However, his two bogeys in the last three holes gave him a 72 and he failed to close the deal for the second week in a row. Last week, he finished with a 3-over-par 75 and tied for fourth in the Valero Texas Open.

Sergio Garcia started the final round with 10 consecutive pars before getting back into the picture with three birdies in four holes, but made his only bogey at No. 18 to finish solo third with a 70, two shots out of the playoff.

Cameron Tringale of Laguna Niguel closed with a 71 to tie for fourth, his highest finish on the PGA Tour, followed by Shawn Stefani, who had a 69, and Rickie Fowler of Murrieta, who was sixth after a 71.

Masters favorite Rory McIlroy closed with a 65 to tie for seventh and Phil Mickelson seemed to be headed for his first top-10 finish of the season before hitting into the water en route to a closing bogey that left him in a tie for 12th after a 71.

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