Stenson plays his way into the Masters
Henrik Stenson didn’t get the trophy at the Houston Open. He
gladly settled for an invitation to the Masters.
Stenson, who eight months ago was No. 133 in the world, closed
with a 6-under 66 on Sunday in the Houston Open and was the leader
in the clubhouse when the final round was delayed because of
thunderstorms. D.A. Points closed with four pars and wound up with
a one-shot victory.
Both were among four players added to the field at Augusta
National – Points as a PGA Tour winner, Stenson for getting into
the top 50 in the world.
Stenson needed to finish at least in 13th place alone to break
into the top 50, although he didn’t know the math. Stenson figured
a top 10 would do the trick, and he didn’t feel comfortable until
he blistered his tee shot on the 18th hole and hit his approach
into about 10 feet for birdie.
”I said to my caddie walking up 18, `No matter what, we’re
playing for a green jacket in a couple of weeks,”’ Stenson said.
”That will be nice. That was the main goal coming here. And when I
played as well as I did, put myself in a good position.”
On the other side of the Atlantic, Marcel Siem of Germany won
the Hassan Trophy in Morocco. That moved him to the cusp of the top
50, but Siem fell short when Russell Henley closed with a 68 at the
Houston Open to tie for 45th, just enough to earn points and stay a
fraction of a point ahead of Siem, who went from No. 72 to No.
Henley already is in the Masters from winning the Sony Open in
Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden and Richard Sterne of South Africa
got into the Masters by being in the top 50. Neither played this
Charles Howell III, the Augusta native who started the year
outside the top 100, needed to finish no worse than fourth place
alone at the Houston Open. He hurt himself with middle rounds of
72-70 at Redstone, but put together a late charge. Howell closed
with a 66, but likely fell at least three shots short of having a
”It was a nice finish,” Howell said. ”Probably not quite good
enough for what I need to go to Augusta, but I played well. I gave
myself a chance. It was a good effort, but good efforts don’t get
that invitation to Augusta.”
Geoff Ogilvy, who played 10 out of 11 weeks trying to get into
the Masters, started the week at No. 50 and missed the cut for the
second straight week. Ogilvy withdrew Sunday from next week’s Texas
Open, ending his hopes of returning to the Masters. The winner of
the Houston Open and Texas Open earn a trip to the Masters.
Ogilvy last year fell one shot short of ending the year in the
top 50 and assuring his spot at Augusta.
Howell is not playing the Texas Open, either.
”I thought my best chance of getting in was the top 50,”
Howell said. ”I played a ton of golf. I’m a little tired, to be
Howell finished third at the Sony Open, and he lost in a playoff
the next week at the Humana Challenge. What hurt even more was
closing with a 78 in the Honda Classic and a 73-75 weekend at Bay
Hill, costing him valuable ranking points. Howell said there was no
point in looking back.
”I’m not going down the road of disappointment,” he said. ”I
played good. I would love to be in the golf tournament. So would
300 million other golfers. I played well this year and I’m going to
watch the tournament on TV. It’s just horrible to watch on TV, to
The addition of Stenson, Points, Sterne and Jacobson brings the
Masters field to 92 players expected to compete. There are no more
than two spots available for the winners of the Houston Open and
Texas Open if they are not already eligible, meaning this will be
the smallest field at the Masters since 90 players competed in
Stenson began his turnaround last September when he tied for
fifth in the Dutch Open. He took a big leap with his win at the
South African Open, and then a tie for seventh in the season-ending
event in Dubai on the European Tour. Last week, he tied for eighth
at Bay Hill, which moved him up five spots to No. 53 and gave him a
good chance at cracking the top 50 in Houston.
And that he did. With so many players in contention in Houston –
20 players separated by four shots going into the final round – he
needed to pile up birdies. Stenson was worried when he failed to
birdie the reachable par-4 12th, and then hit a tee shot against
the lip of a fairway bunker and wound up making bogey on the par-5
13th. But he birdied three of his last four holes to sew up his
spot at the Masters.
”Just been a great turnaround these last two weeks,” he