JJ Spaun punched his ticket to The Masters after firing a three under par to claim the first victory of his career at the Texas Open on Sunday.
The journeyman world No 242 from Los Angeles recovered from a disastrous double-bogey opening hole to card five birdies and 12 pars to finish on 13 under for the tournament at San Antonio.
Australia’s Matt Jones, who finished with a six-under-par 66, and Matt Kuchar (69) finished two off the lead tied for second on 11 under.
Canada’s Adam Hadwin, Troy Merritt, Charles Howell III and overnight co-leader Beau Hossler were a further shot back on 10 under.
South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli, who joined a four-way tie at the top of the third-round leaderboard on Saturday, shot a final-round 73 on Sunday to finish on nine under (T8).
The first tournament PGA Tour victory of Spaun’s career means he will now claim the last available spot at next week’s Masters in Augusta – the first time he has played in the iconic tournament.
Spaun’s entry at Augusta will be only the third time ever he has played in a Major, following a 35th place finish at the 2018 PGA Championship and a missed cut at last year’s US Open.
“To be here and finally get a win – it’s everything you dream of,” said Spaun, whose win came in his 147th start. “It’s incredible. I’m speechless.”
Spaun’s final-round 69 was good enough to edge him clear of a crowded leaderboard.
Spaun had been part of that four-way tie for the lead after Saturday’s third round but his co-leaders were all unable to mount a challenge.
Spaun’s short game around the green provided the momentum for his final-round rally after his opening double-bogey.
He bagged a birdie on the 8th after chipping to within inches of the cup, and then followed that up with a chipped birdie on the 9th, which carried 50 feet and into the hole.
A superb tee shot on the par-three 11th left him with a four-footer for birdie and then another birdie on the 14th – playing out of a bunker before draining a nine-footer to go to three under.
From there Braun played it safe down the stretch, nervelessly making a string of tricky par putts to close out the round without dropping a shot.
Spaun is the first player to win a PGA Tour event after double-bogeying the first hole of a final round since Tiger Woods won the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.
“Honestly, it didn’t bother me as much you would think,” Spaun said of his opening double-bogey.
“If anything, it calmed me down. I knew there was still a lot of golf and that I’d rather double-bogey the first hole then the last hole.”
Spaun is now looking forward to a Masters debut in Augusta this week.
“It’s something you dream of as a kid, playing the Masters,” Spaun said. “I was thinking about it last night, but there was so much I still needed to do win. Fortunately, I was able to stay in the present and get the win.”
© Agence France-Presse