Friday 13 December 2019

Putter catches fire to give Rory Augusta boost

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland

Karl MacGinty

RORY McILROY received the perfect pre-Masters boost at the Shell Houston Open as he tucked away seven birdie putts during a flawless final-round 65 in Texas.

There was a jaunty spring in McIlroy's step as he boarded a plane to Augusta last night after securing a share of seventh place.

Matt Jones (33) sensationally wrapped up back-to-back victories for Australia in Texas, when he sank a 46-foot birdie putt at the last for a closing 66 to tie Matt Kuchar on 15-under and then chipped-in for a winning birdie in extra time.

This first win for Jones on the PGA Tour came seven days after countryman Steven Bowditch won in San Antonio and both earned a ticket to the Masters.

Kuchar, who led by four overnight, hit his approach into water at 18, making his second bogey in the final three holes of a fourth-round 72. Sergio Garcia finished third after a closing 70.

McIlroy was thrilled when his putter suddenly clicked into scoring mode yesterday to secure his fourth top-10 finish in six outings this year.

"It was a good way to end the week," he said. "I wanted to shoot something in the 60s at least today to give me some positive vibes going into Augusta. I played really well, really solid from tee-to-green again.

"I holed the putts I felt I should hole and just kept the ball in play all day. Every time I hit it pretty close, within 10 feet, I holed the putt. It was great to see a few putts like that drop. It's a nice bit of confidence going into the Masters."

Damien McGrane carved out his third top-20 finish in eight European Tour events this year when a closing 72 at Sotogrande's La Reserva earned the Kells man a share of 17th (and €7,920).

Italy's Mario Crespi (33) landed his maiden Tour victory (€100,000) in only his 25th career start.

Tour rookie Kevin Phelan (23) from Waterford banked €4,890 in a tie for 31st. Simon Thornton fell to 66th on 11-over (€1,320).

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