Jim Herman, who last week was ranked 191 in the world, has provided a Masters fairytale by clinching the Shell Houston Open and therefore the final spot in the 90-man field at Augusta National. Herman’s one-stroke triumph triggered tears and no wonder; this was the 38-year-old’s maiden victory on the PGA Tour.
Herman also had to clinch success the hard way. In Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson, he had golfing luminaries breathing down his neck throughout Sunday afternoon. Johnson fell by the wayside, finishing third, before Stenson had a final-green putt to tie with Herman. The Swede’s effort slid agonisingly past – much to his obvious disbelief – with Herman making par on the same, treacherous hole to ensure the happiest day of his professional life and a debut in the first major of the year.
“Packing up and heading right to Augusta, it’s going to be a whirlwind the next four days,” Herman said. “I don’t know how we did it. It’s over but it still hasn’t sunk in. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I got a lot of texts and emails and tweets last night about ‘this is your tournament to win’, but there were so many great players out there and anything can happen in 18 holes.”
Herman’s three previous major appearances all came in the US Open, the last of them in 2013. The life-changing aspect of events in Houston is highlighted by a cheque for $1.2m, plus a series of exemptions for top events.
Stenson has now finished as runner-up eight times since his last win, at the DP World Tour Championship in late 2014. The latest one means he will start Masters week as the game’s sixth-ranked player.
Johnson rued the 11th, where he made double bogey, but was in generally upbeat mood as he looks to win a major for the first time. “I feel great going into Augusta,” he said. “I feel like my game is in really good shape. I have had two really solid weeks in a row, put myself up there in the mix today and hit some great shots.”
Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who claimed third place at the WGC Match Play Championship, maintained a brilliant run of form with a closing 65 for fourth. Cabrera-Bello, like Herman, is heading for his Masters debut.
Jordan Spieth had cut a frustrated figure during his entire Houston stay, a matter that only briefly altered before he left for Georgia. The defending Masters champion played his first seven Sunday holes in five under par, leaving him with an outside chance of challenging for the tournament.
A stumble was to follow and he finished with 70 for a share of 13th. The finding of a water hazard on the final hole rather summed up Spieth’s tournament.
“Everything is checked, I need to put it together and not hit every ball in the water,” Spieth said. “I had eight water balls this week. Give me eight more shots and we win the tournament. Don’t hit it in the water, we win. It’s unfortunate. With the conditions, two under today was a very average score.
“The good news is I got myself in contention, I felt the nerves. I know what I need to work on under pressure now for next week and everything is there. I just need to put it all together and limit the mistakes.
“Obviously with the way the round was going, really I was expecting a better finish and coming off a double bogey on the last hole and speaking to you guys two minutes later doesn’t make me in a good mood. So, when it settles down, I’m sure everything is going to be fine. Everything is there. I saw some putts go in today and that’s what I needed.”
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