HOUSTON (AP) J.B. Holmes used a strong start Sunday for a Houston Open victory in a three-way playoff against Jordan Spieth and Johnson Wagner.
The 32-year-old Holmes birdied the first five holes and nine of the first 12 after starting the day six shots back of Jordan Spieth.
He had a 64, the day’s low round, and won on the second playoff hole for his fourth PGA Tour victory and the $1,188,000 check. Although Holmes’ missed birdie putt had given Wagner another chance, his short putt for par lipped out.
”I knew I had to play a really low round and I started out great,” Holmes said. ”It worked out for me.”
Spieth, the hottest player on the PGA Tour heading into the Masters, was trying to win his second playoff in three weeks, sandwiched around a runner-up finish in the Texas Open last Sunday.
But he bowed out on the first playoff hole after his approach shot landed in a bunker and, lying two, he couldn’t get close to the cup on his chip.
Wagner, who got into the field only through a sponsor’s exemption, was trying to become only the second player to get into the Masters on the weekend before it starts, having done it previously by winning Houston in 2008.
Holmes’ final-day rally was the biggest on the PGA Tour since Matt Jones also came from six down to beat Matt Kuchar in a playoff last April. The Houston Open has featured more playoffs than any tournament on the circuit.
Wagner and Holmes hit perfect drives on the first playoff hole, while Spieth almost landed in the water, then wound up buried in the sand.
”I’m not sure what happened,” he said. ”I heard something or maybe it was just me. It’s not an excuse. I got down in the sand and caught it fat and didn’t give myself a chance to continue in the playoff.”
Earlier, Spieth had seemingly shot himself out of contention with a poor approach on No. 18, the hardest hole on the course. He wound up with a steep downhill lie and a bunker to clear. However, he chipped within 11 1/2 feet, then calmly made the putt.
Spieth was trying to become the second-youngest player after Tiger Woods to win a third PGA Tour event before his 22nd birthday. He also could have passed Jimmy Walker, who pulled out of the tournament before it began citing illness, for the lead in the current season’s points standing.
Still, Spieth thinks he’s well positioned to contend this week in the Masters. He finished second to Bubba Watson last year.
”I felt very comfortable with more and more pressure going into Augusta, which has the most pressure anywhere,” he said.
Holmes began the day as an after-thought, tied for 18th place. But he turned the corner in the final round with a 29, tying the tournament course record for the front nine. His birdie on No. 8 pulled him even with Spieth and another on No. 9, coupled with a Spieth bogey back on six, gave him a lead he wouldn’t relinquish before he left the course to wait for the others to finish.
Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson was only a shot off the lead through 36 holes. But he began the day, like Holmes, six strokes back, having shot 75 Saturday with three consecutive closing birdies.
Although he birdied the first hole on Sunday, the 2011 winner posted a 71 to wind up in a 17th place tie, seven shots behind Holmes.