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March 31 2013

6:38 PM

Stenson wraps up Masters invitation

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

HUMBLE Texas -- No matter what happens, Henrik Stenson will walk away from the Shell Houston Open with the one thing he wanted more than anything this week.

An invitation to the Masters.

When his ball hit the 18th green and settled 9 feet from the pin on Sunday -- forget about when it hit the bottom of the cup -- Stenson knew that was it. He would earn enough world ranking points – inside the top 50 -- to get into the field for the first major of the year.

“Obviously very happy coming -- as I said to my caddie, walking up 18 no matter what, we're playing for a green jacket in a couple of weeks,’’ he said. “That will be nice. That was the main goal coming here. And when I played as well as I did, put myself in a good position, I'm still trying to do well here and then give myself a chance to win this tournament.

“Whether that's going to happen or not, we'll see, but very pleasing finish, four birdies in the last five holes.  Some great shots coming down the stretch.’’

Stenson, who started the week ranked 53rd in the world, finished just before play was suspended during the final round due to a thunderstorm that hit the area.

The finish –- those four birdies in the last five holes -– and that 9-foot birdie on the 72nd hole made him the leader in the clubhouse at 15 under.  Billy Horschel is still on the course at 15 under with one hole left, while D.A. Points is at 16 under with four holes to play. Jason Kokrak, who is looking for his first win, is 14 under through 15 holes, while Ben Crane, Stewart Cink and Kevin Chappell are at various points on the back nine at 13 under.

Stenson., whose last win came at THE PLAYERS Championship in 2009, finished T8 at last week’s rain-delayed Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. Now he’s potentially facing another Monday finish.

Stenson said he played sensible Sunday on his way to a closing 66.

“Didn't make too many mistakes,’’ Stenson said. “The only real bad one was on 15, bogeyed a par 5, hit a poor tee shot. Left it in the bad spot in the trap.  Had the layup short of the hazard and couldn't get on the green. Only bad one of the day.

“But I came back straight off by hitting a 6-iron to half a foot on 14 and to great 3-wood to the green on 15 to birdie that one and then 17 and 18, four great shots and two birdies.’’

Now, Stenson waits. He’s done and has to wait for a dozen other players to finish either Sunday or Monday morning.

“I mean, I hope I get a chance to get back out there, it's a playoff at least,’’ he said. “I'll take that from here on when you're behind the year, take my chances in a playoff. We'll have to see.”

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