Rory McIlroy headed to Augusta with a bounce in his step after firing a closing round 65 at the Shell Houston Open.
Although he started and finished the day well out of contention after a 74 on Saturday, McIlroy could afford a smile after a bogey-free round which matched the low score of the week so far.
“It was a good way to end the week, obviously,” McIlroy said on the PGA Tour website.
“I wanted to shoot something in the 60s at least today to give me some positive vibes going into Augusta.
“I played really well, played really solid from tee-to-green again.
“I holed the putts that I felt I should hole and just kept the ball in play all day.
“Every time I hit it pretty close, within 10 feet, I holed the putt. It was great to see a few putts like that drop. It’s a nice bit of confidence going into next week.”
Saturday’s 74 had left McIlroy down in 37th place, and although he had done enough to climb back into the top 10 by the time he finished his round he could expect to drop again as the rest of the field followed him home.
That, however, was not his concern as he prepared to travel to Augusta.
“I’m happy with how this week went, even though I didn’t quite do what I wanted to do in terms of getting in contention,” he said.
“But I sort of made up for it today. I couldn’t be in a better mood getting on the plane and heading over (to Augusta) tonight.”
Meanwhile, Matt Jones chipped in from 42 yards in a play-off to earn a ticket to the Masters as Matt Kuchar let victory slip through his fingers. Jones’ remarkable shot on the first play-off hole came after Kuchar bogeyed two of the final three holes on his final round to throw away the lead he had held overnight.
In contrast Jones carded a final-round 66, highlighted by a 46-yard putt on the final hole, to claim his first PGA Tour title, more than a million US dollars in prize money, and a ticket to Augusta.
But while Jones made all the right moves on Sunday, Kuchar could have nobody to blame but himself for letting the title get away from him.
The overnight leader had made steady if unspectacular progress throughout his final round - recovering from early bogeys with three birdies on the back nine - and appeared like he might be able to do enough to hold off the Australian’s challenge.
But the pressure exerted by Jones’ clubhouse lead told and it all fell apart for Kuchar late in the day as he bogeyed the 16th and 18th holes to slip into a play-off.