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Smith tunes up for Masters

Associated Press Associated Press 3/04/2016

Australian youngster Cameron Smith produced a decent tune up for his Masters debut as American journeyman Jim Herman claimed the last available spot in this week's Augusta National field.

The 22-year-old Smith shot a closing three-under-par 69 to be the leading Australian at the Houston Open on Sunday, tied for 19th at six under as he prepares for his first tilt at the green jacket starting on Thursday.

World No.191 Herman had never won in 105 previous starts on the US PGA Tour - his only pro win anywhere was the Moonah Classic in Australia six years ago.

But he chipped in for birdie on the par-3 16th and finished with two solid pars for a four-under 68 and a one-shot victory from Swedish star Henrik Stenson that sends him to the Masters for the first time in his career.

"Sorry for the tears, but I'm pretty happy," Herman said.

"We really did a good job keeping our game plan. We wanted to give ourselves as many birdie chances as we could and keep it low stress. And geez, look what happened. Never thought it was possible."

Stenson missed an 18-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 68 to finish one shot behind.

It was the Swede's eighth runner-up finish since his last victory in Dubai at the end of 2014.

Smith, the world No.105, is at understandably long odds to win the Masters at his first attempt but he has already shown the biggest occasions don't faze him when he finished tied fourth at the US Open last year.

Of the big names playing the Masters this week, Dustin Johnson did best on a Houston Open course set up to replicate conditions at Augusta National.

He made three birdies coming in for a 69 to finish third, two shots behind Herman.

World No.2 Jordan Spieth made four straight birdies early in his round, but two shots into the water led to double bogeys and a 70.

He was seven back in a tie for 13th.

Ten years ago, Herman was working as an assistant pro at Trump Bedminster in New Jersey when he played one day with course owner and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, who wanted to know why he was folding shirts instead of competing against the best.

Trump encouraged him to give it another shot, and Herman eventually made it out to the PGA Tour.

This is his fifth full season in the big leagues, and he still wears "Trump" on his golf shirts.

Within the past month, Herman has changed from block letters of "Trump" to a logo from Trump's course.

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