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Russell Henley rallies to win Houston Open, earn trip to Masters

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    Russell Henley rallies to win Houston Open, earn trip to Masters

Photo: Josh Hedges, Getty Images

Russell Henley (left) and playing partner Rickie Fowler shake hands after Henley won the Houston Open.
Russell Henley (left) and playing partner Rickie Fowler shake hands after Henley won the Houston Open.

Photo: Josh Hedges, Getty Images

Russell Henley rallies to win Houston Open, earn trip to Masters

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Russell Henley no longer gets to take a week off, and he couldn’t be happier.

He’s going to the Masters.

Henley overcame a four-shot deficit Sunday in the Houston by closing with a 7-under-par 65 for a three-shot victory, one of the most important final rounds of his career.

“I wasn’t expecting to go back to Augusta,” he said. “I was planning on not going, but I was going to try my best to win. So, the fact I get to go back is pretty cool and I’m excited. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

He made 10 birdies. He did not go more than two holes without a birdie.

Henley ran off five of them in the opening eight holes to briefly catch Sung Kang, only to make a double bogey from the bunker on the par-3 ninth at the Golf Club of Houston. The 27-year-old from Georgia was just getting warmed up.

The decisive stretch came on the par-5 13th, where Henley and Kang were tied for the lead. Henley pitched to 3 feet for birdie, and Kang missed from 15 feet. On the par-3 14th, Henley rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt on one of the fast greens, cut to try to mimic what players will face at Augusta National. Kang did well to save par from 6 feet. And then Henley raced to a three-shot advantage with another up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 15th.

He finished with a bogey for 20-under 268, three shots ahead of Kang.

Rickie Fowler was not in the picture. He made a double bogey with a wild drive on the second hole, and then hit driver off the deck into the water on the par-5 fourth hole to drop another shot. Fowler trailed by as many as seven shots until a flurry of birdies late in the round when he was out of reach of the lead.

Fowler closed with a 70 and tied for third, along with Luke List (68), a shot back of Kang.

“Just an alignment problem that just caused me to make a couple of bad swings, cost me a few shots,” Fowler said. “Nice that I got it turned around and started to make some good swings and made some birdies and fought back, got a good finish out of it. Obviously, yeah, I would have like to have gotten off to a better start.”

Jon Rahm, the 22-year-old rookie from Spain, closed with a 67 and tied for 10th, his fourth consecutive top 10 as he heads to Augusta National for his Masters debut.

Henley won for the third time in his PGA Tour career, and his first since a playoff victory over Rory McIlroy in the 2014 Honda Classic. Henley was in danger of missing the Masters for the second straight year until winning the Houston Open, the only way into Augusta National at this point.

LPGA Tour: Redwood City teenager Lucy Li wrapped up her second major tied for 70th at the ANA Inspiration at Rancho Mirage (Riverside County).

Li, 14, the only amateur to make the cut, shot 72 on Sunday to finish at 7-over 295.

The completion of the final round ended too late for this edition.

Champions Tour: Miguel Angel Jimenez made a birdie putt on the first playoff hole to beat Gene Sauers and win his second consecutive Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in Biloxi. Jimenez looked as if he was going to win relatively easily, with a two-shot lead going into No. 18 at Fallen Oak.

The 53-year-old Spaniard then had a double bogey on 18 to finish at 2-under 70 for the round. Sauers made par to force the playoff, but his second shot on the playoff hole found the bunker, and he couldn’t recover.

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