Russell Henley books Masters spot with Shell Houston Open victory

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Russell Henley put on a Masters worthy performance as he came from behind to win the Shell Houston Open by three shots with an seven-under-par 65 on Sunday.

Henley began four shots behind Sung Kang, but ten birdies during the final day’s play secured his third PGA Tour victory and the last qualifying place to the first major of the year.

He displayed a stellar performance on the greens and stayed aggressive during his entire round, quickly catching Kang’s lead and assuming it by himself at the 13th.

By the 18th hole Henley held a four-shot lead, and a sensible play on the last made for a tap-in final-hole bogey which will send the Georgia native back to the Masters for the fourth time.

“I knew it was going to be hard,” Russell said of his victory. “I knew I was playing well, and I knew I was putting well. I was just trying to keep the peddle down.”

“I just told myself to bear down and no matter if I’m winning or losing I’m going to go hard the whole time. I feel like when you embrace the challenge it becomes easier.”

Kang started the day four clear of Henley, but struggled to find birdies

Henley, who has now secured the final Masters qualifying spot, takes the Augusta National field count up to 94. He has previously teed up at the first major of the year three times in 2013, 2014 and 2015, with his best finish being 21st during his last appearance. 

When asked if he had thought about it whilst playing his final round, Henley replied "I've been trying not to."

"I started to think about Augusta on 15 or 16. It hasn't really sunk in yet. It will be my fourth Masters. I'm very thankful, it's very tough to get in the Masters - it's exciting."

What he did say was that he feels that this win gives him confidence that he belongs out here on the tour. 

"I feel like I belong out here," he said. "I feel like I’m starting to believe that I belong and it feels good to compete. 

"This was definitely my best round (of his career). I felt very nervous, but I felt in control and very disciplined."

Before the start of the day, it was Rickie Fowler that appeared to be the real threat to Kang’s lead, but his own aggressive play early on dashed his chances of achieving his second PGA Tour win of the season.

Fowler briefly held the lead during the third round, but started badly on Sunday with a double bogey at the second and another dropped shot on the 4th.  He rallied well on the back nine, and ended up tied for third with Luke List at 16-under-par for the tournament.

It may not have been the win Fowler wanted, but he's certainly well placed heading in to the Masters (his worst finish in his last five starts is T16) - so you can understand why Andrew 'Beef' Johnson tipped him as his pick to win next Sunday. 

It was an unfortunate end for Kang, who had held the lead for consecutive days but wasn’t able to build on the 36-hole tournament record he held going in to the weekend at 16-under-par.

He holed a tough par-putt on the last to retain solo second, but a level-par round of 72 leaves Kang still searching for his first PGA Tour win. 

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