Russell Henley wins Shell Houston Open, earns trip to Masters

April 02, 2017
Shell Houston Open - Final Round

Stacy Revere

Russell Henley is going to Augusta National. And he's going with momentum.

The 27-year-old, who started the day four shots behind leader Sung-hoon Kang, began his morning with five birdies in the first eight holes. A double at the ninth seemingly stopped his victory march cold, but Henley bounced back with another birdie streak. Though he bogeyed the Golf Club of Houston's tough 18th, his seven-under 65 was good enough for a three-shot victory.

"I tried to go into it with the mentality that I could do it and win it," Henley said afterwards. "And I started to believe it."

Kang struggled on the day to the tune of an even-par 72. Earlier in the week, the South Korean -- who entered Houston ranked 158th in strokes gained: putting -- put a new TaylorMade Spider model in his bag, a change that paid dividends as Kang led the field in putting through three days. Alas, he hit just 11 greens in the fourth round, and when he did find the dance floor, his short-game woes returned.

Rickie Fowler, who started the day in second place, doubled the second hole and bogeyed the par-5 fourth. While he rebounded nicely to finish two under on the round, it wasn't enough to catch Henley. A four-under performance from Luke List tied him with Fowler for third.

While the Houston win grants Henley security in a two-year tour exemption, it also delivered an invite to a certain tournament in Georgia next week.

"It hasn't quite hit me yet that I've earned a spot to the Masters," said Henley, who started the week ranked 117th in the world.

A former Haskins Award winner, Henley enjoyed a promising start to his career, finishing 19th in the 2014 FedEx Cup. Alas, the past two seasons have presented their hardships, with the Georgia product failing to finish inside the top 60 in earnings. Though he's had a fine campaign with two top 10s and six top 25s, it was his first time contending in 2017.

"I feel like I've had a really consistent season," Henley said. "I think the consistent play has given me confidence."

The Houston victory is Henley's third PGA Tour career win, and first since 2014. He's played in three previous Masters, with a 21st-place finish in 2015 his best showing.