Shell Houston Open 2016
Round 4 - Jim Herman claims win and Masters place
April 4, 2016
Jim Herman delivered a masterful performance at just the right time Sunday in the Shell Houston Open.
Herman, winless in 105 previous starts on the PGA Tour, chipped in for birdie on the par-3 16th and finished with two solid pars for a 4-under 68 and a one-shot victory that sends him to the Masters for the first time in his career.
Herman tapped in for par and thrust both fists in the air after his one-shot victory over Henrik Stenson.
''This is pretty unreal,'' Herman said, admitting he had to go through Q school seven times before sticking on the Tour.
''I've dreamt of this for long time and I'm going to enjoy it. I'm pretty proud of myself. (It's) the first time I've ever been up there in the final group. To be able to bring it home ... I did really well. It wasn't too long ago that I was pretty low with my game. I couldn't get out of my own way. This never would have been possible two years ago.''
The Houston Open was the final opportunity for players to get into the Masters, and Herman seemed like a long shot at No. 191 in the world whose only professional victory was six years ago at the Moonah Classic in Australia.
Stenson missed an 18-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 68 to finish one shot behind. It was the Swede's eighth runner-up finish since his last victory in Dubai at the end of 2014.
''You can play well and still lose,'' he said. ''I didn't want to put any (extra) pressure on myself. I wasn't given the tournament. I had to play 9 under on the weekend to win it.''
Dustin Johnson tried to overcome a double bogey on the 11th hole. He made three birdies coming in, but had to settle for a 69 and was two shots back.
Jordan Spieth made four straight birdies early in his round, but two shots into the water led to double bogeys and a 70. He was seven back in a tie for 13th.
It was the third time since 2008 that a player won the Houston Open to get into the Masters, and Herman might be the most unlikely candidate.
Ten years ago, Herman was working as an assistant pro at Trump Bedminster in New Jersey when he played one day with course owner and GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who wanted to know why he was folding shirts instead of competing against the best. Trump encouraged him to give it another shot, and Herman eventually made it out to the PGA Tour.
This is his fifth full season in the big leagues, and he still wears ''Trump'' on his golf shirts. Within the past month, Herman has changed from block letters of ''Trump'' to a logo from Trump's course.
He was artful in closing the deal at the Golf Club of Houston.
Herman and Jamie Lovemark were tied for the lead going into the final round. Lovemark was 4 over through six holes and was never a factor. Herman hung around during Spieth's early charge, and even after Stenson took the lead.
Stenson fell back with a bogey from the bunker on the 14th hole, only to get that stroke back on the par-5 15th.
Herman, however, never flinched. Tied for the lead, he missed the green to the left on the 16th and was in thick grass near the bunker. His chip came out perfectly and dropped for a surprising birdie and a one-shot lead, and he held it.
He faced a long wait at the 18th to hit his tee shot, with a bunker to the right and water all the way down the left. Herman drilled it 316 yards down the middle, hit a safe shot to the middle of the green, and two putts later he was on his way to Augusta National.
The victory also gets Herman into the PGA Championship for the first time.
Round 3 - Jim Herman and Jamie Lovemark share lead
April 3, 2016
Jim Herman and Jamie Lovemark, two players who have never won a PGA Tour event or played in the Masters, shared the lead going into the final round of the Houston Open.
A win Sunday and they get to tee off at Augusta National next week.
The 38-year-old Herman shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to position himself for a breakthrough.
''There's a lot to play for tomorrow,'' said the pro from Cincinnati, whose best finish this season has been a 10th-place tie. ''I had a couple of good par saves, especially on the last hole. I'm committed to going to the first tee (Sunday) and hitting that first fairway. I've got to ty to not put any extra pressure on myself.''
Lovemark, 28 and a former NCAA champion at USC whose professional career was derailed by major back surgery, wasn't able to build on his fast start, which saw him birdie three of the first four holes. He stayed in the hunt with a 70 after opening rounds of 67 and 68.
''My confidence is good,'' Lovemark said. ''I've got to keep doing what I've been doing. It's going to be a tough battle tomorrow. It'll be a shootout.''
Herman and Lovemark were at 11 under par through 54 holes and just a stroke ahead of Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Russell Hensley. The Swede Stenson, No. 7 in the current world ranking, posted the day's best round with a 66 after also birdieing three of the first four holes. Henley had a 68 Saturday and Johnson a 70.
''The first two days I've hit the ball quite nicely but haven't been putting well,'' Stenson said, ''so I worked again yesterday afternoon on that. I got it going a bit better today. I was more comfortable, found some lies and made a couple of beauties out there.''
The two players ahead of Stenson in the world ranking, No. 2 Jordan Spieth and No. 5 Rickie Fowler, remained in contention at 6 under and 7 under, respectively, after both carding 70s.
The 22-year-old Spieth, who stayed alive with three birdies on the back side, lost in a three-way playoff here last spring, then went on to win the Masters in resounding fashion, leading start to finish for his first major championship.
''I felt like I played well,'' said Spieth, who also won the 2015 U.S. Open but has struggled with his consistency over the last several weeks. ''We had some unreal wind flips on the first six, seven holes, and we were on the wrong end of about six in a row. It's really tough to stay patient through that.
''I'm playing really, really solid golf. But it just hasn't come through in a (round of) minus 6 or minus 7. Hopefully that means we're saving them for tomorrow - or next week.''
Another shot back at 9 under was Roberto Castro, who also scored 70 and is trying to become the first Houston-born player to win the Houston tournament.
None of the leaders should be resting easily given the recent history of the event, which was founded in 1946. The last two champions here, Matt Jones in 2014 and J. B. Holmes a year ago, both came from six strokes behind starting the final round to claim the first-place check.
Nineteen players will tee off Sunday within six shots of the lead, including three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, also the 2011 Houston champion, had six birdies Saturday en route to a 71. A triple bogey on the par-4 sixth hole kept him from being only three strokes off the lead.
Round 2 - Charley Hoffman holds on to narrow advantage
April 1, 2016
Charley Hoffman had a 2-under 70 for a one-shot lead over Jamie Lovemark at the Houston Open on Friday.
Lovemark was a former NCAA champion seeking his first PGA Tour title after having his career affected by back surgery. He was one of four players to shoot the day's low score, 68, under conditions that worsened as the afternoon went on, which helped protect Hoffman from the field.
Dustin Johnson was among those chasing Hoffman, who opened with a 64 Thursday, but Johnson dropped back to 8 under with a bogey on 17, closing with a 71 after narrowly missing a 10-foot birdie putt on 18.
Johnson was in the last group to finish the round before darkness stopped play.
A 93-minute morning weather delay brought on by rain and lightning in the area ensured that 27 players will have to complete the second round Saturday morning.
''It was really tough ... cold and the wind was blowing,'' Johnson said. ''The course played difficult, especially the last four, five holes. I still managed to get a round under par, a pretty decent score under the conditions. I'm happy with that.''
Roberto Castro and Jamie Donaldson, are also at 8 under with three holes still to play, sharing third place with Johnson and Chez Reavie. Reavie shot 70 Friday to go with a first-round 66. Johnson and Castro had both opened at 65.
The 39-year-old Hoffman moved to 11 under with a birdie on No. 17, but gave the stroke back by bogeying 18, considered to be one of the most challenging finishing holes on the PGA Tour and made more difficult by wind gusts.
''I had a fairly straightforward bunker shot but caught it a little heavy,'' he said. ''That's a tough hole. They moved the tee up today, but there's still a big water hazard to the left and the wind was blowing in off the right. It's tough to putt in the wind. It was blowing my ball.
''Tee to green I did pretty well, but the putts weren't dropping like they did yesterday. I'm happy where I'm at. Anytime you're near the lead after 36 holes you're happy.''
Charles Howell III eagled the par-4 10th hole and was making a run at Hoffman before bogeying the par-3 16th and taking a double-bogey on 18 to finish with a second consecutive 69, leaving him in a large group four shots back.
Jordan Spieth, who will be trying to defend his Masters title next week, struggled with his putting and, for the second day in a row, put a ball into a water hazard on a par-5 hole. The end result was three bogeys on his back nine - the Golf Club of Houston course's front nine - and he finished with a ragged 73.
''I'm close,'' Spieth said. ''It's the dumb stuff ... those water balls. That's four shots right there. It really stinks to keep on making those mistakes. And I've got to putt better before next week.
''I'm losing a couple strokes (to) the field on putting and normally we're gaining strokes. I can't get into a rhythm. I'm stepping off putts. That's a tough feeling. It kind of bleeds into the rest of your game because you feel like you've got to be more aggressive.''
The 22-year-old Texan lost this tournament in a playoff a year ago before going to Augusta and leading start to finish, tying Tiger Woods' tournament-record 18-under score. Spieth is one of 34 players within six shots of Hoffman.
Round 1 - Charley Hoffman takes first round honours
April 1, 2016
Charley Hoffman birdied half the holes on the Golf Club of Houston and had one bogey Thursday while shooting an 8-under 64 for the first-round lead in the Shell Houston Open.
He had a one-shot advantage over a group that included Scott Brown, the Augusta, Georgia, native who has never played in the Masters. Brown would have to win the Houston Open to get into the field next week at Augusta National.
Jordan Spieth, who will try to defend his Masters title next week, opened with a 67.
Hoffman is no stranger to good starts. It's the finish that had held him back this year, closing with 75s in his last two events.
''I've shot 3- or 4-over on the back nine on Sunday when I've been going from winning the golf tournament to 12th or 15th place,'' Hoffman said. ''I've played fairly solidly from the start of the year to now and haven't been missing cuts, but I haven't been able to put four rounds together. Hopefully I can do that this week.''
Hoffman birdied the first four holes after making the turn, and then added another birdie on No. 8 to break out of what had been a four-way tie with Brown, Dustin Johnson and Robert Castro, who were at 65.
Johnson finished eagle-birdie, hitting 4-iron into 10 feet on the par-5 eighth hole.
''You always want to get off to a good start in any tournament,'' Johnson said. ''Today I got off to a great start. I still feel like I'm playing really solid, rolling the putter good.''
Castro, playing consistently from start to finish, produced seven birdies and no bogeys while missing only two fairways. It was a marked turnaround from what he called ''rough Thursdays in my last two tournaments,'' when he opened with 75s in the Valspar Championships and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Former Houston Open champion Johnson Wagner, who won in 2008 and got into a Sunday playoff here last spring, was another swing back at 66, tied with four other players. Wagner won the first year the Masters restored PGA Tour winners to its field. He would need another victory to get back to Augusta.
Spieth, who hasn't won a title since January and surrendered his world No. 1 ranking to Jason Day on Sunday when Day won the Dell Match Play in Austin, said he ''drove the ball fantastic today (and) really felt comfortable on my iron shots. I had very, very good control of my golf game and my short game was there today as well.''
Former Masters champions Phil Mickelson, Charl Schwartzel and Angel Cabrera all posted 69s.
The 39-year-old Hoffman has been on the PGA Tour since 2006 and won most recently two years ago in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. He has already locked up a spot in the Masters by finishing among the top 12 last year at Augusta.
''I was really relaxed and played well today,'' Hoffman said, while adding, ''but I learned a long time ago you enter golf tournaments to try to win them, not try to make cuts. Making cuts is a great thing, but we play to win, not to base a resume off cuts.''