Mexico’s Ortiz holds off Johnson for first US PGA Tour title in Houston

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz captured his first US PGA Tour title yesterday, firing five birdies in a five-under par 67 for a two-shot Houston Open victory over top-ranked Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama.

Ortiz padded his margin with the final flourish of a birdie on 18 at Memorial Park Golf Course, a municipal layout in the Texas city hosting a PGA event for the first time since 1963.

“It was awesome finishing with this birdie putt on 18,” said Ortiz, who rolled in a 22-footer at the last for a 13-under par total of 267.

The Guadalajara native played college golf at North Texas University in Dallas, and maintains a home in Texas.

“This is like my second home,” he said. “There was a bunch of people cheering for me, Latinos and Texans. I’m thankful for all of them.”

The tournament was the first to allow fans since the PGA Tour resumed in June after a three-month coronavirus hiatus. A total of 2,000 spectators were allowed each day, with face mask requirements and social distancing precautions in place.

Carlos Ortiz plays his shot from the first tee during the final round of the Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course. PHOTO: AFP

The victory gives Ortiz a spot in next year’s Masters, although not in the final major of the pandemic-reshuffled season that starts on Thursday at Augusta National.

The week provided an encouraging tuneup for the Masters for Johnson, Japan’s Matsuyama and others, including four-time major winner Brooks Koepka.

World number one Johnson, winner of the Northern Trust and the Tour Championship who had a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship and a share of sixth at the US Open, missed two planned October starts after testing positive for coronavirus.

He had six birdies and a bogey in his closing 65 for an 11-under total of 269.

He was joined by Matsuyama, who had seven birdies without a bogey in his 63.

Matsuyama, a five-time United States (US) tour winner remains without a victory since 2017, when he won the Phoenix Open and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

But he said his performance this week was a good sign going into Augusta. “My good finish over the weekend is going to really hopefully help me in the Masters this week coming up,” Matsuyama said.

Johnson and Matsuyama kept the pressure on Ortiz all afternoon, Matsuyama briefly grabbing a share of the lead on 11-under when he rattled in a 16-foot birdie putt on the 17th.

But Ortiz moved a shot ahead with a birdie at the par-five 16th, eight feet from the pin and two-putted for a birdie that put him 12 under.

Johnson, 11-under after a 10-foot birdie at the 15th, couldn’t take advantage of the par-five 16th and Ortiz pulled away.