sport

Jones banks Houston title

Australian rookie Matt Jones has booked his place at The Masters after producing a remarkable finish to win the Houston Open on the first play-off hole against Matt Kuchar.

The 33-year-old holed a pitch shot on the first play-off hole to defeat Kuchar, who began the final round six shots clear of the eventual winner.

It was a fairytale ending for the world No 75, who sank a monster 45-foot birdie on the same 18th hole to force a play-off after Kuchar had bogeyed the last.

It is the first PGA Tour victory for Jones, who shot a closing 66 to join Kuchar (72) at 15-under-par 273, two strokes ahead of Spaniard Sergio Garcia.

But while Jones made all the right moves on Sunday, Kuchar could have nobody to blame but himself for letting the title get away from him.

The overnight leader had made steady if unspectacular progress throughout his final round - recovering from early bogeys with three birdies on the back nine - and appeared like he might be able to do enough to hold off the Australian's challenge.

But the pressure exerted by Jones' clubhouse lead told and it all fell apart for Kuchar late in the day as he bogeyed the 16th and 18th holes to slip into a play-off.

Amazing

Speaking afterwards, a jubilant Jones said: "It feels amazing. it's been a while coming. I've been out here for seven years now and it's great to have one - i've had a few chances.

"I've been working hard won my chipping and putting and as soon as it came out, it was exactly where I wanted it to go. I actually told my caddie that i'd chip it in so it was nice to do it."

It is a second straight tournament in which Kuchar has lost a lead late on. He was tied with Steven Bowidtch on the back nine in last week's Valero Texas Open but the Australian came through to win.

While Kuchar leaves nursing his wounds, Rory McIlroy gave himself something to build on heading into the Masters with a final-round 65.

Although he started and finished the day well out of contention after a 74 on Saturday, McIlroy could afford a smile after a bogey-free round which matched the low score of the week so far.

"It was a good way to end the week, obviously," McIlroy said on the PGA Tour website.

"I wanted to shoot something in the 60s at least today to give me some positive vibes going into Augusta. I played really well, played really solid from tee-to-green again.

"I holed the putts that 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 next week."

Phil Mickelson also came through unscathed, declaring himself fit after a recent pulled muscle.

However, the three-time Masters winner, who finished in a tie for 12th, admitted his confidence is not where it might be given recent results.

"I'm a little nervous heading into next week," he said. "I haven't had the results, I haven't been in contention, I haven't won this year, so I'm certainly nervous about my chances, but it's my favourite week of the year."