Points, with Masters on his mind in Houston, earns his ticket to Augusta

D.A. Points at the Shell Houston Open
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D.A. Points, the Shell Houston Open winner, earned his berth in the Masters with an old putter and a new approach to putting.
By
PGA.com news services

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Monday, April 01, 2013 | 6:42 p.m.

HUMBLE, Texas -- The Masters was always on D.A. Points' mind, even with the start of his year going nowhere.

He took care of that with one clutch putt.

WORLD RANKING

Tiger Woods is now in his 624th week atop the chart. The second-longest streak, at 331 weeks, belongs to Greg Norman.

Points

Player

1. Tiger Woods

11.75

2. Rory McIlroy

10.87

3. Justin Rose

7.01

4. Luke Donald

6.69

5. Brandt Snedeker

6.29

6. Louis Oosthuizen

6.06

7. Adam Scott

5.70

8. Steve Stricker

5.69

9. Matt Kuchar

5.30

10. Phil Mickelson

5.25

Points sank a 13-footer to save par on the 72nd hole Sunday, winning the rain-delayed Shell Houston Open by one stroke over Henrik Stenson and Billy Horschel.

The win also boosted Points up to 70th in the Official World Golf Ranking, a big jump up from his previous perch at 195th. That was by far the biggest move of a week in which not much changed at the top of the ranking.

In fact, the top nine spots remained the same, with Phil Mickelson advancing one rung to 10th from his perch last week of 11th place.

The second 10 includes No. 11 Keegan Bradley (down from 10th), No. 12 Ian Poulter, No. 13 Lee Westwood, No. 14 Bubba Watson, No. 15 Charl Schwartzel, No. 16 Sergio Garcia (up from 17th), No. 17 Graeme McDowell (down from 16th), No. 18 Jason Dufner, No. 19 Dustin Johnson (up from 20th) and No. 20 Webb Simpson (down from 19th).

Also last week, Marcel Siem of Germany won the Haasan II Trophy on the European Tour to climb from 72nd up to 51st and came up just short of the top-50 ranking he needed to earn an automatic berth in the Masters. Stenson, by virtue of his tie for second in Houston, rose from 53rd to 42nd and did earn a Masters spot.

Points' only other victory came with actor Bill Murray at his side at Pebble Beach in 2011. This one earned him an invitation to the Masters in two weeks and a two-year exemption, unexpected bonuses after missing seven cuts in his first nine starts this year.

''I never doubt that I can do it,'' Points said. ''I certainly get down and frustrated when I make two of nine cuts. That's not making you feel real great about yourself.''

No matter how he played in Houston, he was planning to play in this week's Valero Texas Open, too. Now, at least he won't have to worry about winning there.

''I never thought that I wasn't going to make it (to Augusta),'' Points said. ''I just thought this is an opportunity, just like next week.''

Desperate to change his luck before Houston, he brought along an old putter he once borrowed from his mother that's been sitting in his garage since about 2005. He hardly missed with it in an opening 64 and then sank the biggest putt of his career on Sunday.

''I think mom is just fine with me having it,'' he said.

But it was more than just the putter that worked this week. Fellow player Chris Stroud set up a putting lesson for Points on Wednesday morning with Brian White, the golf coach at nearby Lamar University, where Stroud played. White rescheduled a flight to meet with Points and got him to change his point of impact.

''The things he was saying, at first, I wasn't in love with,'' Points said. ''But I knew that what he was saying wasn't wrong.''

White also told him to remember to accelerate through his putts, no matter how pressurized they are. Points had already learned a thing or two about easing tension on the course from Murray and found a way to lighten the mood with caddie Travis Perkins on Sunday.

''Every time he wasn't looking at me, I'd kind of look at him with this big, cheesy grin,'' Points said. ''He would start laughing and I would instantly laugh. That was just enough of the stuff to break the tension.''

Points was 6 under on his round when the storms arrived late in the afternoon. He passed the time watching the Duke-Louisville game in the NCAA tournament and the final groups returned to the course at 6:30 p.m. He restarted in the 15th fairway with no more than a dozen onlookers and crickets starting to chirp in the fading sunlight.

He made three straight pars then hit a hybrid to the right of the 18th green from 231 yards away. He left an awkward pitch short and reassured himself as he walked up to the potential winning putt.

''Whatever happens, happens,'' he said. ''It's not like I don't want to make it, it's not like I'm trying not to make it. If I hit a good putt and it goes, that's what's supposed to happen.''

He pumped his right fist when the putt dropped, then took off his cap and thanked the die-hard fans who stuck around for the finish.

''Thank you for staying,'' Points said, ''and Happy Easter!''