By Richard Dean
Jim Herman met the challenge. The 54-hole co-leader of the Shell Houston Open didn’t go away on Sunday in pursuit of his first win on the PGA Tour.
In a final round in which a number of world-ranked players were packed near the top of the leaderboard, it was Herman who came out on top, shooting a 4-under-par 68 for a long-waited win on tour.
Propelled by chipping in for birdie from off the 16th green to take the lead, Herman, at 15-under over four days at the Golf Club of Houston, won by a stroke over No. 7 Henrik Stenson, who just missed a birdie attempt on the 18th hole.
Playing in the final group just behind Stenson’s twosome, Herman parred the final hole to secure the win. Herman’s earnings of $1,224,000 on Sunday is more money than he’s earned in any year.
“I always knew I had the talent to be here,” said Herman, who has spent five years on the PGA Tour after four years on the Web.com Tour. “It’s hard to win out here. You never know if you’re going to win.”
With the victory, the 38-year-old Herman earned the final spot into the Masters, which starts on Thursday.
“This is unreal,” said Herman, who was 9-under for the weekend. “I’m looking forward to Augusta. There’s so many great players out here. You can play well and still lose.”
Herman took the lead for good with his chip-in birdie on the 16th hole. After pulling a 6-iron on the par-3, Herman’s ball found the rough. His second shot popped up on the fringe, then rolled a little right, finding the hole. Hoping for a par, Herman was pleased with the go-ahead birdie.
“To go in, I was pretty excited on that one,” Herman said. “It’s great to execute when you need to.”
Herman, who went from ranked 191st in the FedExCup rankings to 18th with the win, fended off a number of challengers in addition to Stenson, who hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2013, and third-place finisher Dustin Johnson, No. 9 in the world, who finished 2 shots back at 13-under for third place after a final-round 69.
Jordan Spieth made an early charge, making five birdies in a six-hole stretch to get within a shot of the lead. But Spieth couldn’t continue the roll, shooting 70, and at 8-under, was in a five-way tie for 13th that included Phil Mickelson, who shot a final-round 69.
Stenson, who led the field in birdies with 22, also shot a 68 on Sunday. “I just got beat by someone who played a shot better,” Stenson said. “I put as much pressure as I could on the leader coming in.”
With rounds of 69-69-67-68 for a 273, Herman posted four rounds in the 60s for only the fourth time in his career. Herman’s previous-best finish on the PGA Tour was a share of fourth place at the 2015 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
NOTES & QUOTES
Reed rallies for top-10 finish
Through three rounds of the Shell Houston Open, Spring resident Patrick Reed hadn’t played his best golf, and he felt his hometown fans deserved more out of him. On Sunday, Reed delivered, shooting a 5-under-par 67 that left him pleased, entering the Masters. The strong finish also gave Reed a share of 10th place at 9-under. “I felt like I let the crowd down the first three days because I felt like I hit the ball really solid and I wasn’t able to cap off many of the putts,” said Reed. “So the crowd didn’t really have much to cheer for.
“Today, I got here a little early to work with my putting. I felt real confident and comfortable with how I was putting. I continued hitting the ball well and made a couple of those crucial putts I needed to. And it was nice to see it go in. Especially going into Augusta.”
Final-round 65 lifts Cabrera-Bello to fourth place
Controlling the golf ball extremely well, Rafa Cabrera-Bello shot a 7-under-par 65 on Sunday, finishing at 12-under, good for fourth place.
Cabrera-Bello was dialed in the last three rounds, and on Sunday, he drove the par-4 12th green. In his final round, he missed only one green, and he did not make a bogey in his final 40 holes at the SHO.
“Just staying out of trouble all the time,” Cabrera-Bello said. “Had the putts gone in, I could have gone silly low today. But still a great round.”
Cabrera-Bello started Sunday 6 shots behind 54-hole co-leaders Jim Herman and Jamie Lovemark. An eagle on the reachable par-4 12th hole highlighted Cabrera-Bello’s final round. His tee shot got the right bounce, landing 5 feet from the hole, which he converted for the eagle.
Lovemark struggles on Sunday
Third-round co-leader Jamie Lovemark had a rough final round in seeking his first PGA Tour win.
Lovemark, who was atop the leaderboard at 54 holes at 11-under with Jim Herman, faltered on Sunday, shooting a 4-over-par 76. At 7-under, Lovemark finished 18th.
Lovemark bogeyed holes 2 and 3, and by the time he made double bogey on the par-4 No. 6 hole, he was plus-4 for the day.
Spieth makes early move
Jordan Spieth made an early charge, but couldn’t keep his momentum going in the final round.
After making birdie on No. 7 – his fifth birdie in six holes – to get to 11-under, Spieth was only 1 shot behind leader Jim Herman. But Spieth couldn’t sustain the birdie binge and shot a final-round 70, finishing at 8-under for a share of 13th place.
“I had it going there and then unfortunately shot 2-under,” Spieth said. “With conditions today, 2-under was a very average score. So a very disappointing finish.”