Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz captured his first US PGA Tour title Sunday, 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.
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 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.
“I played great and it was challenging at the end,” said the 29-year-old, who fought back tears after the victory was secured and he became the first player born in Mexico to win a US tour title since Victor Regalado won twice in the 1970s.
“I saw there’s a couple people playing really good, too, so I knew I couldn’t just, like, lay it up to the greens and then expect to win so I had to finish strong.”
Ortiz’s five birdies also included two putts of more than 30 feet from off the green — a 36-footer at the fourth and another long bomb at the ninth.
“That putt on four kick-started my round,” he said. “It was in a tough position and I ended up making it, so it was awesome.
“Then that putt on nine, it was unbelievable. I read it perfectly and as soon as I hit it, I knew I had a good chance of making it.”
American Talor Gooch matched Matsuyama’s 63 to finish alone in fourth on 271, and Koepka, the former world number one heading into the Masters after a season disrupted not only by coronavirus but by injury, closed with his second straight 65 to share fifth on 272 with Austrian Sepp Straka, who carded a 69.
“Played good the last two days,” Koepka said. “It was nice (to) build some confidence going into Augusta, scoring well.”