Bizarre finish at Texas Open as Akshay Bhatia wins and books dream Masters spot

Akshay Bhatia of the United States plays his tee shot on the 4th hole during the final round of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio

Akshay Bhatia overcome a self-inflicted shoulder injury as he beat Denny McCarthy in a sudden-death playoff at the end of a dramatic final round of the PGA Tour's Texas Open. Picture: Raj Mehta/Getty Images/AFP

Published Apr 8, 2024


Akshay Bhatia beat Denny McCarthy in a sudden-death playoff at the end of a dramatic final round of the PGA Tour's Texas Open in San Antonio on Sunday.

Bhatia, who is now the last qualifier to the Masters, went into the final round with a four-shot lead but a remarkable back nine from McCarthy forced a playoff.

McCarthy made eight birdies after the turn, finishing with seven in a row as he carded a nine-under 63.

His 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th left Bhatia needing to sink his own 11 footer to avoid defeat and head to a playoff and the 22-year-old Californian did not flinch.

Strange injury

He did wince however, after celebrating the putt with his fist pump causing him a shoulder injury that needed treatment on the playoff hole.

Bhatia called for his trainer but while he was clearly in discomfort he was solid off the tee and made his lay-up shot before he was able to have his shoulder popped back into position and be strapped up.

But before that happened McCarthy, looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, had produced his worst shot of the week at the most crucial moment.

With a 99-yard wedge shot to the green, the 31-year-old shanked his shot and watched in disbelief as it landed in the stream in front of the green.

Bhatia kept his cool and secured the win and his first trip to the Masters.

The left-hander has however played at Augusta National, back in 2013 when he finished sixth in the junior Drive, Chip and Putt competition held in the days before the main event.

"Every kid dreams about going to Augusta National whether you're a patron, whether you're a player, caddie, whatever it may be. Just being able to go there and feel the aura of the place at such a young age was awesome. I'm looking forward to going back," said Bhatia.

"It's a dream come true.I wrote on my wrist today "W-T-W," which is wire-to-wire. Just kind of pictured a straight wire from the first hole to the 72nd hole and I just tried to really stick to that," he added.

Lead fading away

Bhatia shot a five-under 67 with his only blemish a bogey on the par-4 10th but he said he could feel his lead fading away as his playing partner made his charge.

"It was hard. You feel like you're kind of losing. You're losing the golf tournament. This guy's making a ton of birdies, I'm not making any mistakes and yet, you know, I was tied for the lead going into the last," he said.

After a round of such outstanding putting, McCarthy, who had already qualified for the Masters, was left reflecting on one bad shot.

"Wish I could have had that wedge shot back there. I backed off a couple times. There was a bug on my ball and some noise in the stands and a bug jumped back on my ball," he said.

"I probably should have backed away again, but I thought I could kind of not let it distract me and maybe it did a little," he added.

Rory McIlroy will head to Augusta in positive mood after a final round 66 left him in third place.

The Northern Irishman, looking to complete the career grand slam of majors with a first title at Augusta, was bogey-free through his round.

"I'm in a better spot than I was a few weeks ago," McIlroy said. "I played pretty solid in some tough conditions and then when the course opened up for us a little bit today, I was able to take advantage of it. Feeling good."