Unheralded Jim Herman trumps Stenson to win first PGA title at Houston Open
Journeyman holds off top 10 players to win his first US PGA Tour title and book a Masters berth
Journeyman Jim Herman held off top 10 players Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson to win his first US PGA Tour title at the Houston Open on Sunday and book a Masters berth.
Herman, a 38-year-old who was encouraged by Donald Trump to keep pursuing his PGA Tour dream, had five birdies in a four-under 68 – including a spectacular chip-in from thick hillside rough at 16 that gave him a one-stroke lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
“Sorry for the tears, but I’m really happy,” Herman told a post-round interviewer having parred the last for the win after an agonising wait on the 18th tee.
His 15-under total of 273 gave him the narrow triumph over Stenson, the world number seven from Sweden who endured another in a long line of near-misses worldwide since he won the European Tour’s season-ending World Tour Championship in 2014.
In a back-and-forth battle, Stenson had briefly taken the lead with a birdie at 13 and was tied for the lead after a birdie at 15.
He had five birdies in a four-under 68 for 274, but narrowly missed an 18-foot birdie attempt at the last that would have at least put him in a play-off.
Herman’s victory was his first in 106 starts on the PGA Tour. He was working as a pro at one of Trump’s golf courses when the property tycoon turned US presidential hopeful encouraged him to keep pushing his competitive career.
Now he’s headed to the first major of the year at Augusta National.
“Never thought it was possible,” said Herman, who wears a Trump logo on his shirt.
Johnson, ranked ninth in the world, had six birdies to counter a bogey and a double-bogey in a 69 for 275.
He was one shot in front of Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, whose sparkling seven-under 65 included five birdies and an eagle at the par-four 12th – where his 306-yard tee shot left him a five-foot putt.
For a few moments it looked like Jordan Spieth would mount a challenge as the world number two got off to a hot start in his bid to build momentum heading into his Masters title defence at Augusta National next week.
With renewed rhythm on the greens the 22-year-old Texan birdied five of his first seven holes to charge up the leaderboard, a run that included a 45-footer at the fifth.
But he bogeyed three of his next four, failing to get up and down from the greenside rough at the tough par-three-ninth before poor shots at 11 and 12 – a second shot to the bank of the water hazard at 11 and a driver into the water at 12 – cost him two more strokes and after two more birdies he closed with a double-bogey at 18, where he was in the water again.
Spieth signed for a two-under 70 that left him tied for 13th on 280 in a group that also included five-time major winner Phil Mickelson.