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Henley off to the Masters after winning Houston Open
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 04 - 04 - 2017

Georgia native Russell Henley said he had "chills" thinking about his return to the US Masters, a reward for his three-stroke victory at the Shell Houston Open in Texas on Sunday.
The amateur guitar player made a career-best 10 birdies to surge past a faltering Kang Sung-hoon and clinch his third PGA Tour victory.
"I just told myself to bear down, no matter whether I was winning or losing. When you embrace the challenge it calms you down a little bit," Henley, who started the day four strokes behind Kang, said after carding 65 to finish at 20-under-par 268 at the Golf Club of Houston.
Kang, like Henley needing a win to qualify for the Masters starting on Thursday, never got his final round off the launch pad, battling to a 72.
The South Korean preserved solo second place by sinking a 15-foot par putt at the last to finish at 17-under, a stroke better than Americans Rickie Fowler and Luke List.
A spot in the Masters was reserved for the Houston winner, if not already exempt, and Henley heads to Augusta, Georgia for the year's first major championship, not far from his hometown of Macon.
"It gives me chills," Henley, 27, said. "I've been trying not to think about it today but obviously it went through my head."
He hopes to defy history in his fourth appearance at Augusta. Only four players have won the Houston PGA Tour event and then gone on to also claim the Green Jacket the next week, most recently Phil Mickelson in 2006.
Mickelson, one of 18 Augusta-bound players who made the cut in Houston, tied for 55th in his final tune-up for what he hopes will be a fourth Green Jacket.
Ryu wins ANA in playoff after Thompson hit with penalty
Lexi Thompson was denied a major victory in the cruellest of fashions at the ANA Inspiration on Sunday after she was hit with a four-stroke penalty for a rules infraction the previous day then lost to South Korean Ryu So-yeon in a playoff for the title.
Thompson was leading by three shots when she was informed of a rule breach stemming from the way she replaced her ball on the 17th green during Saturday's third round.
She incurred a two-shot penalty for the breach and another two-shot penalty for returning an incorrect scorecard.
The LPGA said in a statement that a television viewer had alerted them to the infraction on Sunday and that after a review they had informed Thompson of the breach.
"Is this a joke? Oh my God. Four-stroke penalty, that's just ridiculous," Thompson said when notified of the penalty.
The American was in tears as she teed off on the 13th hole but gathered herself and birdied it. She then had an eagle putt on the last to win in regulation but had to settle for a birdie and a playoff with Ryu.
Ryu then birdied the 18th, the first playoff hole, to win the title. "I just ... cannot believe this situation," said Ryu, who captured her second career major.
"During play, I didn't even check the leaderboard, but I thought Lexi played really, really well."
Thompson was also looking to capture her second major, having won the ANA Inspiration in 2014. "I did not intentionally do that (violation). So to the officials, or whatever called in, that was not my purpose. I didn't even realize I did that," Thompson said.
South Korean Park In-bee, Minjee Lee of Australia and Suzann Pettersen of Norway finished tied for third at 13-under. Michelle Wie finished sixth at 11-under while defending champion Lydia Ko finished tied for 11th at seven-under.
McIlroy agrees new long-term deal with Nike
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy has signed a long-term extension to his contract with Nike ahead of this week's US Masters at Augusta National. "Looking forward to the next 10+ years as a @nike athlete," the Northern Irishman said on his verified Twitter account.
The world's biggest sportswear maker said last August that it would stop selling Golf equipment — including clubs, Golf balls and bags — to focus on footwear, apparel with the familiar swoosh logo and partnering more Golfers.
The company, which built its Golf business on the success of Tiger Woods, gave no details about the deal in a separate statement. "I've loved this company since I was a kid," it quoted McIlroy as saying. "I'm really happy to continue this journey with Nike."
British media estimated, however, that the new deal could be worth $100 million with the 27-year-old remaining free to negotiate with equipment makers.
McIlroy joined Nike in 2013 on a deal that also covered clubs and the former world number one has since won 12 tournaments, including two major championships. He had been previously sponsored by Titleist.
A first Masters victory, and the coveted green jacket, would make him only the sixth player in history to complete Golf's grand slam of major championships. — Reuters

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