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AP photo by Michael Thomas / J.J. Spaun tees off on the 16th hole at TPC San Antonio during Sunday's final round of the Texas Open. Spaun closed with a 69 for a two-stroke victory, the first win of his PGA Tour career.

SAN ANTONIO — J.J. Spaun earned his first PGA Tour victory and secured his first trip to the Masters by shooting a 3-under-par 69 on Sunday to win the Valero Texas Open by two strokes.

In his 147th career start on golf's top circuit, Spaun survived a double-bogey start to his day by posting five birdies with no bogeys the rest of the way to finish at 13-under 275 at TPC San Antonio.

Matt Jones (66) and Matt Kuchar (69) — each needing a win in the last event before the first men's major tournament of the year to earn an invitation to Augusta National Golf Club — shared second place.

"I was thinking about the Masters last night," Spaun said. "But I think a year ago, to think I would even be here playing on tour, I'd have to do a lot of work. To finally get a win, it's what you dream about."

In October, Spaun was ranked No. 396 in the Official World Golf Ranking. It followed a 2020-21 season in which he missed more cuts than he made, including at the Texas Open, and had only one top-10 finish. He had to play in the developmental Korn Ferry Tour last year to retain his tour card.

The 31-year-old Spaun closed Sunday's round with four straight pars, and no one could close in on him. His previous best finish on the PGA Tour was as the runner-up at the 2018 RSM Classic. In addition to a spot in Augusta, Sunday's win netted him a $1.54 million check.

Jones missed a three-foot par putt on the 16th, birdied the 17th and missed a 14-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

"It was a good weekend," Jones said, "but I had a good round going Thursday and let it slip, and then Friday I just played poorly and made a couple of mistakes. Those mistakes are what cost golf tournaments. Yeah, I played great today."

Kuchar needed a birdie on the final hole and Spaun to make bogey to force a playoff. Spaun found trouble off the tee in the left rough, but Kuchar's second shot went into the water. Spaun reached the green of the par-5 finishing hole in three, and his final putt was less than two feet.

Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker, who shared the lead after the first two holes Sunday, each missed an opportunity to get back to the Masters. Between them, they have 26 appearances and seven top-10 finishes in Augusta, and each has a top-three showing there. Snedeker tied for 18th after a closing 75.

Spaun's double-bogey final round start before getting the victory is so rare that the last time it happened on tour came in 2008, when Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open (and Woods needed an 18-hole playoff plus sudden death the following day).

"It didn't bother me as much as you would think," Spaun said. "I knew there was a lot of golf. I'd rather double the first hole than the last hole."

Adam Hadwin (67), Beau Hossler (72), Charles Howell III (69) and Troy Merritt (69) tied for fourth at 10 under.

Baylor School graduate Luke List, already in the Masters field after earning his first career win earlier this year, closed with a 73 and tied for 53rd at 2 under.

 

One last leap

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Jennifer Kupcho took the last victory leap into Poppie's Pond late Sunday afternoon, ending the tournament best known as the Dinah Shore's half-century run at Mission Hills in the California desert.

Six strokes ahead entering the round, Kupcho shot a 2-over 74 for a two-stroke victory over Jessica Korda in the Chevron Championship. The 24-year-old from Colorado finished at 14-under 274 for her first LPGA Tour title.

The event that started in 1972 as the Colgate-Dinah Shore Winner's Circle and became a major in 1983 is moving to Houston next year after failing to attract a sponsor willing to keep it in the desert.

Seven strokes ahead of Korda and 2021 champion Patty Tavatanakit at 18 under after holing birdie putts longer than 30 feet on the par-4 fourth and par-3 fifth, Kupcho played the final 13 holes in 4 over.

Korda shot a 69. Fighting a back problem, she holed her approach for eagle on the par-4 third and pulled within four with birdies on Nos. 11 and 12.

Korda was only two strokes back after Kupcho bogeyed 13 and 14, but she fell three behind with a bogey of her own on 15 and parred the last three.

Kupcho pushed the advantage to four with a three-foot birdie putt on the 15th, and Korda missed a 12-foot birdie try soon after on 16. Kupcho bogeyed the final two holes, three-putting the par-5 18th.

The event's first U.S. winner since Brittany Lincicome in 2015, Kupcho opened Thursday with a 66 for a share of the lead. She had a 70 on Friday and shot 64 on Saturday to break the tournament 54-hole record at 16 under. She missed a chance to break the 72-hole mark of 19 under set by Dottie Pepper in 1999.

Kupcho won three years after after passing up a spot in the event to play and win that week in the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur. She also won the 2018 NCAA individual title for Wake Forest.

 

Sunday cruise

BILOXI, Miss. — Steven Alker cruised to his second PGA Tour Champions career victory, shooting a 7-under 65 in the final round to win the Rapiscan Systems Classic by six shots.

Alker's total of 18 under was a record at the 54-hole event, which moved to Grand Bear Golf Club this year after 10 editions at Fallen Oak.

Padraig Harrington, headed to the Masters this week, closed with a 65 to surge into a tie for second with Alex Cejka. Bob Estes, who started the day one shot back, slipped to third after shooting a 71.

Alker fired a course-record 62 during the second round to take the lead, then followed it up by playing nearly flawless golf to hold off an early charge from Estes.

Estes, still searching for his first victory on the 50-and-older tour at age 56, pulled even with Alker three times on the front nine but fell off the pace with a bogey at the par-4 eighth hole and couldn't keep up when Alker ripped three straight birdies to start the back nine.

Alker ended a seven-year victory drought with a win at the TimberTech Championship in November, and he didn't record a bogey this weekend over his final 40 holes. He finished with a flourish, dropping his putter after draining a birdie on the par-4 18th.

Alker said his game "was there. I didn't quite have it the first day, but just kind of freed it up and let it go."

 

Rising talent

AUGUSTA, Ga. — A model of calm, 16-year-old Anna Davis cruised around the back nine without a bogey and seemingly without a care. Only after she finished off a 3-under 69 on Saturday afternoon did the nerves kick in while watching the final two groups in the Augusta National Women's Amateur.

Davis thought her 12-foot birdie putt that slid by the cup might cost her. And then she watched from the scoring cabin as Latanna Stone threw away a two-shot lead with two holes to play by stumbling with a double bogey from the 17th fairway and a bogey from the pine straw on the final hole, making Davis the youngest champion at the home of the Masters.

Masters chairman Fred Ridley presented her the trophy.

"I want to be the best in the world," said Davis, a high school sophomore who still doesn't have a driver's license and can't even talk to college recruiters until June.

Stone closed with a 72 and tied for second with LSU teammate Ingrid Lindblad, who bogeyed the 18th from a fairway bunker and had to settle for a 68.

It was only a year ago when Davis, a left-hander from just east of San Diego, jumped into the national picture with her first American Junior Golf Association title, followed by a victory in the Girls Junior PGA Championship. Those two wins enabled her to be part of the Junior Solheim Cup and Junior Ryder Cup teams, and in three AJGA events this year, she has finished second, fourth and third, rising to No. 100 in the world women's amateur ranking.

On Saturday, Davis was the only player to finish under par at 1-under 215 — the first two rounds of the 54-hole event were Wednesday and Thursday at Champions Retreat Golf Club in the Augusta suburb of Evans, before a Friday practice round at Augusta National — and the victory came with a big surprise: She is exempt into this year's U.S. Women's Open.

Said Davis: "That's insane."

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